Students in Jenna King’s kindergarten class at L.C. Kerr had a special visitor.
Tonya Kircher, an occupational therapist who uses a therapy dog named Dolce in the classroom setting to help with students’ focus, attention and motivation to participate in fine motor skills, came to the school last month and introduced the dog to King’s students.
Kircher also works with students “reading out loud” skills and social skills. Dolce is a chocolate lab who is a licensed therapy dog and works within the school setting.
According to Kircher, therapy dog visitations can be used to motivate students in a school setting to improve socialization, encourage appropriate behavior, develop hobbies, help with relaxation, promote reality orientation, and is a much needed diversion from students’ problems. Therapy dogs can be used as a therapeutic aid in the classroom. In addition to providing unconditional love while interacting with students, dogs have a beneficial influence on the social, physical, and mental condition of those receiving visits.
Studies have shown that interaction with dogs can:
• Rehabilitate and promote relaxation
• Relieve agitation, anxiety, and stress in students
• Improve communication between humans
During her visit, Kircher led a group discussion with the kids on what a therapy dog does and how they are different from service dogs. She also taught a writing lesson with Dolce as the main topic.
“I liked when Dolce came and sat by me while I was writing,” kindergartner Jeremiah Cook stated.
As a follow up activity, students in King’s class will write letters to Dolce. Many students said they were excited about the visit from Kircher and Dolce.
“It made me happy to have a dog in our classroom,” Anna Embler said.