June 11, 2014 5:57 pm

Therapy dog reduces student stress levels

WATCH: (Jun. 11, 2014) Therapy dog provides support and unconditional love to special needs students

TORONTO – A local therapy dog from Parkdale is  helping to reduce the stress levels and anxiety for special-needs students at Fern Avenue Public School.

Farley works five days a week with his owner Karen Ashforth, the special education teacher for grades three to five at the school. He is a four-year-old sheltie.

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“Most of these children have learning issues, usually in the areas of reading, writing and math,” Ashforth said.

“[Farley] helps them develop the skills without the judgement.”

Touching, patting and  talking to a therapy dog have all been proven to reduce stress and anxiety.  Benjamin is just one of the students in Ashforth’s class who feels the difference Farley makes.

“I think Farley’s helped me because whenever I’m stressed out on a questions like math he calms me down and then I take it slower and try again until I get it right,” Benjamin said.

Principal Alexander Moy says that successful interactions with a therapy dog helps children learn valuable lessons in a calming setting.

“Empathy and social awareness are important attributes for children to learn,” said Moy. “Having a therapy dog in the school allows them a very concrete way to manifest that.”

Laura Wilson is just one of the mothers who notices an added confidence in her son’s performance in school.

“I think it’s given him confidence in his reading,” said Wilson. “Just having a little friend around to cuddle with, calms him down, relaxes him so that he can focus better.”

“[Farley’s] become a wonderful teacher,” said Ashforth.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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