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Dogs help children with learning difficulties


08-08-2014 19:14 BJT

This is an Australian primary school, here man's best friend, not grumpy at all, has become teacher's little helper. Labradoodle dogs are being used to assist children with learning difficulties, and help maintain calm in the classroom.

These newborn labradoodle puppies may have more ahead of them than just being cute and cuddly pets.

They could become part of a growing classroom experiment in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales, where the dogs are being used to help primary school children, autistic students in particular.

"What I have read is that it does trigger some chemical releases in the brain that take over, I suppose, negative thoughts into happy thoughts," said Tony Gadd, principal of Telarah Public School.

As well as calming autistic children, the school found that labradoodles have a positive impact on a wide range of students, and also help defuse classroom incidents.

"For instance, if a child is upset or misbehaving, or doing the wrong thing, or not staying in their seat, by parking the dog next to that seat, the child will stay in their seat," Tony said.

Charlotte McGrath has been breeding labradoodles for more than two decades.

She says the dogs are known for their ability to help children with a range of developmental disorders, including autism.

"They've interrupted with meltdowns, which is a characteristic that is common with children on the spectrum. They've assisted in calming the children," Charlotte said.

For mother and school psychologist, Penny Moussa, the arrival of a labradoodle in her home has worked wonders. Her daughter, Bianca, is on the autistic spectrum. And having a labradoodle has put Bianca at ease.

"She's a lot more social, she's able to communicate without that level of anxiety that she had before," Penny said.

"BFF" here means best friend forever.

Labradoodles are also used to comfort people in aged care facilities and hospitals around the world.

Other schools in this region of Australia say they're now considering trying a labradoodle in the classroom.

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