Weekly News 10 June 2022

New School Support Dog for CBS Secondary Mitchelstown

CBS Secondary School, Mitchelstown were delighted to welcome their new school support dog April to the school community this year. April can work either in the specialised autism classes in the school, or in a mainstream classroom setting. The school is lucky enough to have two autism classes, with a third one due to open in September, and with so much talk in the media of a lack of resources and school places for students with additional learning needs, CBS are proud of the fact that the school is one befitting of the twenty-first century: inclusive, welcoming and one that guarantees an excellent educational opportunity for all. To this end, the school is delighted to have had the opportunity to liaise with Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland, in procuring the opportunity to work with April in the school.

April, like all members of the school community will have a timetable come September, where she will be on the premises for a maximum of three days a week, though this can increase depending on the dog. April will work alongside teachers or SNAs and can participate in classroom, or school, activities, as was seen a few weeks ago when she joined the students in the whole school walk as part of the “Community, Inclusion, and Friendship Week”.

When in a classroom setting April will have the freedom to walk around. If there is a particular student who would like April to sit next to him, or have one on one time, the teacher can organise for this to happen. School support dogs, theoretically and empirically, have been shown to help reduce stress in students with anxiety, and have a general calming influence on the general student body, which can increase the learning potential of the students in increasing engagement, helps to improve social interaction, and gives a shared sense of belonging, interest, and responsibility for the class: students will have to work with April, and will invariably learn about dogs and appropriate behaviours. April, ultimately, is in the school to provide emotional support, comfort, and companionship, and due to the tumultuous two years every student has experienced, this will be hugely beneficial for the whole student body.

To show our gratitude to Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland, the CBS Student Council fundraised during the aforementioned “Community, Inclusion, and Friendship Week”, raising a total of €750, which was presented to Nadine Bohane from the organisation. The school is incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to work with April and as students and teachers are already seeing, her calming influence is palpable. It is the hope of the school that April will be as integrally synonymous with the school as the green and red!