Friday, November 23, 2012
|Photo by ©Stefanie Felix|
Twelve years ago, former Shorewood High School teacher Sally Tonkin wrote a grant to the Shoreline Public Schools Foundation which created a program in cooperation with special education for students with emotional behavioral disabilities, taught by Maureen Setterberg.
As a result of the grant, they were able to hire professional therapy dog trainer Laurie Hardman to work with Setterberg’s students in training Wilbur, Tonkin's yellow lab.
“We trained Wilbur to be a therapy dog and many of my students have been officially trained since that time to be officially trained as therapy dog handlers,” Setterberg said. “Laurie Hardman has volunteered twice a week for the past 11 years to work with my students and dogs.”
The program has expanded in recent years to include partnerships with Parkwood and Syre elementary special education programs.
Setterberg’s students trained a second dog last year, Bella. Bella, a black lab, belongs to William Sugden, a counselor at Shorewood.
As part of the Shorewood students' training, they visit classrooms and design activities to do with the elementary students, beginning to develop the idea of community service and developing compassion for others.
“The therapeutic value for everyone involved has been amazing,” Setterberg said. “Many of my students experience stress on a regular basis. Working with the dogs has helped them manage their stress appropriately. Communication skills and social development have been major areas of progress as well.”
Setterberg, Hardman and the students visit Faye Rasmussen’s special education classroom at Parkwood monthly with their trained therapy dogs.
“My students show great enthusiasm for the visits, asking many times when the therapy dogs will be coming,” Rasmussen said. “The benefits for my students have been increased self-esteem, reduced anxiety, increased willingness to interact and an increased motivation to complete schoolwork. It is an amazing program that changes lives.”
More photos by ©Stefanie Felix