Jessie Helps Teach Special Needs Children
St. Dominic’s is a school for special needs children located in Blauvelt, NY. Jessie and Pat have been visiting weekly in Miss Rose’s class. Rose, a very talented teacher, has created a curriculum around Jessie’s visits, focusing on various topics and social situations. Jessie is the highlight of the week for the children.
Each session starts in a circle with each child greeting Jessie and Pat. The social focus continues with an activity such as a role play or applying active listening. When each child completes an activity s/he gets to pet Jessie as a reward. Once everyone has had their turn, each child gets to choose what s/he would like Jessie to do. It can be a special trick, or even getting Jessie to find a treat that the child hides anywhere in the room. Each child then gets to make some closing remarks, say goodbye to Jessie and Pat, give Jessie a final pet and return to their seats.
Each session lasts about an hour. Some of the topics covered have been:
- Greetings – Meeting someone, saying hello, goodbye greetings for special occasions.
- Feelings – What do you say when people feel bad, you hurt them or need to make them feel better.
- Listening – Picking up patterns, actively listening to others, repeating what others have described.
- Watching – Mimicking actions of others, watching what Jessie does and describing it.
- Following Directions – Listening and doing what was described by another student Describing to another student what needs to be done.
- Tactile – Closing eyes and feeling what letter student has written on their back, identifying an object from how it feels.
- Emotions – How do you know if dogs are happy, sad, angry? How do you know if people are happy, sad, angry. Reading body language.
Jessie and Pat are greeted warmly when they visit, not only within Rose’s classroom. Students and faculty stop to pet Jessie on the way into the school and on the way out.
Jessie and Pat participated in a walk-a-thon with the students in the spring to encourage the students during the walk. During the holidays, the students created a thank you card for Pat and sewed a treatbag to give to Jessie as a gift.
This has been a wonderful experience for Pat and Jessie and the children have certainly benefited from their visits. It would be wonderful if all therapy teams had an opportunity to be such an integral part of the learning process and encourage children’s learning in the classroom.