Assistance Dog at St Joseph's Primary, Bardon

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In Term 2 we had some volunteers visiting the school to assist in reading support with some of the Year 2 students. Emily Homer, who is the sibling of two students at the school, attended with her Assistance Dog, Kera. She was accompanied by Kathryn from Assistance Dogs Australia.

It has been recognised that students who need support with their reading often benefit from the motivation and encouragement of reading to a dog. Kathryn has extensive experience in delivering a reading dog program and has seen the benefits.

Usually these programs are delivered with a therapy dog. Therapy Dogs are usually a person's own pet dog that the person has had qualified (through a therapy dog organisation) to make visits to hospitals, schools, nursing homes, etc.

However, Kera is an Assistance Dog. An Assistance Dog is an accredited dog specially trained to assist a person with a disability and has met the state standards for public access rights. The Disability Discrimination Act allows qualified Assistance Dogs to accompany their handler into all public spaces. Emily is on the Autistic Spectrum and Kera has been trained through Assistance Dogs Australia to support her.

Assistance Dogs Australia is an organisation that for 25 years has been training and delivering free-to-client Assistance Dogs who provide independence, self-esteem, improved health and relationships to individuals and families. They help people with psychological conditions, like PTSD and Autism Spectrum Disorders, feel safe, calm and confident when out in public spaces. They help people with physical disabilities and limitations complete day to day tasks around their homes and in the community. Assistance Dogs provide highly specialised skills to address specific needs a person might have.

We were very fortunate to have this amazing opportunity at St Joseph's Primary School.

Student comments:

Hannah said that she read half a book the night before and again that morning, and that she has been reading a lot more because of the sessions with the assistance dog.

Jack likes reading more now.

Sophia loves seeing Kera and feels more confident reading out loud now. “I am going to miss Emily and Kera".

Faith said that she thought it would be scary but really it wasn't. She wanted to sit beside Kera.

Kathryn from Assistance Dogs Australia has been so impressed with how Emily has increased in confidence in helping the children and how she has been able to recognise the different needs/levels of the children and react appropriately.