Therapy Dogs Help Council Rock Students Learn
Council Rock School District students have been working with therapy dog teams, which are believed to build student motivation, enhance focus and increase on-task behaviors.
Nor’Wester Readers, a canine assisted learning program, started providing services in the Council Rock School District in 2007 with a single therapy team in a second grade learning support class. Since its inception, the program has grown from one therapy dog team to more than 30 teams.
The organization, based in Richboro, now works in 17 schools, 36 classrooms and five local school districts, including Pennsbury and New Hope Solebury.
“The dogs are magic and the teams are making breakthroughs with some students that no one else has been able to reach” said co-director Wendi Huttner.
The program places dogs and their handlers into the classroom to foster motivation, student confidence and a love of learning. The goal is to enhance learning so students fully realize their potential and experience a stress-free environment that increases self-esteem and confidence.
The therapy teams work in a wide variety of classroom settings in both the elementary and secondary level. Council Rock has used the teams in regular education settings, as well as learning support and autistic classrooms, counseling sessions and life skills classes.
A variety of breeds participate as therapy dogs, including labs, golden retrievers, collies and bernese mountain dogs.
Nor'Wester Readers co-director Debbie Glessner said dogs are ideal learning companions because they help increase relaxation, listen attentively, do not judge or criticize and are less intimidating than the students' peers.
While the organization began as a “read to the dog” program, it has now grown to include writing with students, oral presentations and counseling, social-emotional and autistic support, Huttner said.
Activities begin at 9:30 a.m. and include a three-mile walk, a half-mile mini walk, face painting, pony rides, dog contests and raffles. There will also be an opportunity to have your dog evaluated to see if they are eligible to become certified therapy dogs.
For more information, visit www.norwesterreaders.org.