The Journal News, based in White Plains, N.Y., recently ran a nice article about a therapy dog that has apparently prompted wonderful results in a classroom of children with special learning needs. One 6-year-old with selective mutism -- a social anxiety disorder that prevented him from speaking -- apparently broke his silence just so he could talk to his mother about Boo, a 7-year-old Labrador mix.
Therapy dogs have had a long history in schools, but they are not universally accepted, for a variety of reasons. A few years ago, I wrote about a family that wanted their specially-trained therapy dog to be a part of their daughter’s individualized education program, because giving the dog commands helped the child improve her speech. The school said no. The always-interesting National School Boards Association blog, “Board Buzz,” wrote a piece in 2004 about a superintendent who got hounded (forgive me) for not allowing a dog that was specially trained to note the onset of seizures attend school with a student who has epilepsy.
So I’m glad to bring attention to a happy ending. There’s only one thing missing from the Journal News article though -- words from the child in question! If the therapy dog has been so successful in getting this young child to speak, I’d love to know just what he’s talking about.
A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.