My Nonprofit Reviews
Review for Pawsitive Perspectives Assistance Dogs (PawPADs), Lakeville, MN, USA
Sioux Trail Elementary School participated in the PawPADs Social Interaction Therapy program. Personal relationships go along way and these relationships increase our understanding of the individuals we are working with, give us insight as to what works, and develops long lasting connections. At Sioux Trail, our mission is increasing student achievement and developing strong personal relationships with children and their families is key part of this work.
This year we added the PawPADs Social Interaction Therapy (SIT) program to our toolbox and it has been instrumental in assisting in increasing student achievement through the development of relationships and identifying the needs of each individual child. The success of the PawPADS SIT program at Sioux Trail is best characterized by a couple of stories.
Sioux Trail Elementary School is home to two classrooms specifically structured around the needs of students with severe cognitive or physical disabilities. This is where the SIT Program got its start at Sioux Trail. The SIT program at Sioux Trail is designed to benefit both the dogs and the students. While I lack the qualifications to evaluate the benefit of the program on service dogs, I am a keen observer of the amazing benefits we see on our students. Many of the students in these classrooms lack the ability to communicate using words in the way that you and I do, but it is easy to read the excitement on their faces when your talented volunteer arrives with one of the PawPADs service dogs. When the students work together with the trainer and the dog we observe an increase in their motivation to work on skills such a developing gross motor skills by tossing items, which the dog then practices the commands “get it”, "bring it here" and "give," as well as others. Teachers have observed students who are reluctant to leave their wheelchairs or other adaptive equipment to go for a short walk change their attitude. When they get to walk Rio or other dogs around our school, they will go for a 45 minute walk, which for the students in this program is physically challenging experience. A final example is what the simple, yet indescribable joy of petting and sitting with a dog does for a student who is blind or has limited mobility. The connection that the dogs are making with our students are unlike any that we can make.
After the successful implementation of the SIT program with students in our Special Education classrooms, a teacher asked a devoted PawPADs volunteer if the program could be expanded to allow students to sit and read with a PawPADs service dog. The teacher and PaPADs volunteer identified a similar personal passion, researched the idea and developed a program that will have long lasting impact on students and their ability to fluently read grade level appropriate text. We are now fortunate enough to have at least two service dogs in our school once a week, who are read to by students who are reading below their grade level. After working with students in the special education classrooms, the PawPADs trainer and a dog move to our intervention classroom where they are joined by an additional trainer and dog team who pick cozy locations to read with students. The word of mouth about this opportunity spread like wildfire and we have great numbers of students requesting time to read with a PawPADs dog. Students now get a ticket in the morning if they are going to read with Ranger, Hero or another service dog and the smile that lights up their face is a clear indication of their excitement. Recently, a student was walking down the hallway and a staff member asking how his day was going “Two days until the dog comes” he replied. In addition to the joy that the students express about this opportunity, we are seeing measurable outcomes as well, such as in increase in performance on standardized reading assessments, selection of reading materials close to grade level, a newfound passion for sitting still and reading for more than 15 minutes and an increased desire to find book they like.
A final story is one from the entire student body. Each year our student council selects one charity to raise money for and they had completed this fundraiser earlier in the year. After seeing the impact of the PawPADs service dogs at Sioux Trail, our student council representatives asked about organizing a second fundraiser to benefit the PawPADs organization and the work Pawsitive Perspectives Assistance Dogs is doing. What is significant about this to me is that a small portion of Sioux Trail students have the opportunity to connect with Bravo or another service dog during the day, yet all students see the benefit an want to support the work that is happening at Sioux Trail. This says good things about our students, but it says great things about the work you are doing and the connections that the dogs are making in a wide-variety of ways.
In closing, I am grateful for the partnership with Sioux Trail and the positive impact that the PawPADs organization, volunteers and dogs are having on Sioux Trail students, families and staff.
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