A shaggy bi-weekly visitor to the League Education and Treatment Center (LETC) is improving the focus of developmentally disabled kids, leading to better results in the classroom.
Each week, Einstein, a ten year old Standard Schnauzer, makes two visits to the children at LETC through the school’s new alliance with Pet Partners, a non-profit dedicated to improving human health through therapy, service and companion animals. The result, according to school psychologist Jonathan Ausubel, is amazing. “[The kids] are not always able to sit still for long periods of time,” he explained. “But with the dog, they love sitting together. It’s a great cohesive activity, where they all sit for a half hour and don’t want to leave.”
The students also benefit by overcoming shyness and sometimes even a fear of dogs. In virtually every class, one or two children stay back while their classmates rush to pet Einstein. As the 30 minute period progresses and they see the other kids enjoying their visitor, they slowly make their way to Einstein, ultimately petting him, first near his tail, and then, as they summon up their courage, nearer to his head. The fact that these kids are lacking in social and emotional development makes the accomplishment all the more noteworthy.
Pet Partners prepares volunteers and their pets to visit animal programs in hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, schools and other facilities. Established in 1990, they now have more than 11,000 volunteers and pets registered in all 50 states and 13 other countries. Together, they reach more than 1 million people each year. Einstein’s master Vivian Stadel has “teamed” with her pet at many sites before arriving at the League. “His specialty is children,” she said. “He likes the interaction and the kids participate with him and each other. He seems to know who to interact with and how to bring out their best…I think he benefits from this as well.”
To ensure the students are making progress through the program, the LETC uses a rating scale created by the Pet Partners. The scale allows the school to measure the way the children control their emotions while they’re with the dog against what they typically see in the classroom. “We already see amazing differences,” said LETC Preschool Director Stacy Chizzik, who hopes to grow the program at the school. The League educates and treats at-risk and underserved children and adults from all parts of New York City, offering programs for kids with autism, developmental, emotional, and/or behavioral difficulties and milder learning delays or emotional challenges.
Ausubel has also seen a difference in the kids since the Pet Partners alliance began. “We see the same kind of behavior we see here, of sitting together, paying attention and interacting with one another, which they carry back to the classroom and their home life,” he said. “Little-by-little, it does make a difference and it does carry over.”
Type your name and email address below, then click "Submit" to be added to our spam-free email list.