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Welcome to Julie Billiart Schools, a family of K-8 coeducational, independent day schools for children with learning differences.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Dogs have a unique ability to pick up on social cues and stressors that allow them to connect with people and bring a sense of calm to an environment. Research clearly indicates the benefits of therapy dogs for individuals with learning and social differences. At JB we are fortunate enough to have a couple of therapy dogs that act as a calming presence for our students.

At Akron, we have Sydney, a 6-year-old Australian Miniature Labradoodle. She’s been coming to Akron since it first opened in 2017. Gabrielle Redovian, Sydney’s owner and our Assistant Principal and Director of Special Education, was teaching 2nd grade at the time she was gifted Sydney. Gabrielle knew that Sydney had the temperment to support kids with special needs and enrolled her in training. Sydney started training to be a therapy dog at 4 months of age. At the age of 1, she received her CGC Title (Canine Good Citizen training) and began her therapy work.

“Sydney brings a smile to any dog lover's face. She loves to be around people, get belly rubs, and snuggle at your feet,” said Redovian. “Sydney's biggest impact has been helping any student who is struggling to calm down and work through situations. She has a few students who love to come and take breaks with her. They just sit and pet her. They are provided five minutes with her and know that they have to return to their task/class when they are done.”

Benefits of Therapy Dogs and Children with Learning Differences

At Lyndhurst, we have Dexter, a 4-year-old Goldendoodle. He’s been greeting students at Lyndhurst for the past 3 years. Dexter had extensive training since he was 16 weeks old. He started in Puppy Training Classes and worked his way up to the Therapy Dog Certification Course. He is still in the process of trying to pass the certification exam. Though he’s incredible with students and excels at all other areas of the exam, he fails the portion of the test when the squeaky ball comes out. It's his favorite toy at home and he just wants to play when it's brought out at the assessment. For this reason, we don’t keep squeaky balls in our classrooms.

“Dexter is so calm and the students and staff can sense that,” said Dexter’s owner, JBL Principal Chris McCloskey. “Everyone is so gentle and relaxed when they are around him. Many of our students earn time with Dexter for positive behaviors. He's also used during de-escalation stages with the students and has helped many regulate their emotions when heightened.”

Benefits of Therapy Dogs and Children with Learning Differences

There are numerous benefits when pairing animals with students who have learning and social differences. At JB, we’ve worked to integrate therapy animals into our programs so that they enhance, rather than distract. This intentionality has led to incredible bonds between our dogs and students. Here is what we’ve noticed since having our dogs on campus:

  • Enhanced Social Engagement - Being around our dogs and socializing with them allows for many of our students to feel more comfortable in social situations.

  • Calming Presence During Meltdowns - Our dogs have the ability to be a calming force during stressful/anxious situations. Our students are able to take a break when feelings are elevated to spend time with a dog.

  • Strengthened Companionship - Some of our students have a difficult time with eye contact, forming relationships, and developing strong bonds with others. Our students bond quickly with our dogs which creates a mutual sense of love and acceptance. This comfort has helped our kids build the confidence to explore relationships with their peers, too.

  • Improved Vocal Skills - Our students tend to speak frequently to our dogs. When paired with our onsite speech therapy, we’ve noticed that being around a therapy dog can lead to positive changes in speech and stronger communication between peers.

  • Improved Academic Performance - Therapy dogs can assist in creating a soothing effect that helps children relax their minds and relieve stress. This effect supports children’s learning processes, allowing them to perform better in academics. Sometimes our dogs will spend time in a classroom during MAP testing or other academic activities.

We are extremely grateful for Sydney and Dexter and all they’ve done and continue to do for our students.

open-quote My kids love everything about JB and look forward to going to school every day and seeing their friends and teachers. JB is truly a one of a kind school enriching young lives everyday. close-quote

JB Parent

open-quote I don’t think I will ever be able to put into words how grateful I am that you saw my daughter for all that she is today and all that she is yet to become. close-quote

Tammie Sommer

open-quote All of the teachers and staff at JB are patient and willing to take the extra time to make sure we, as parents, understand and are comfortable. close-quote

JB Parent

open-quote Julie Billiart Schools gave us hope after our daughter was diagnosed with a learning disability. At JB, she thrived in the small classes, received necessary therapies, and developed the self-confidence to ask for help when she needed it. close-quote

JB Parent

open-quote They have all the resources necessary, specialized to the individual learning of each child, and the heart that goes with it. I don't think we would have stayed in Ohio if it wasn't for JB! close-quote

JB Parent

open-quote Julie Billiart Schools has helped my child become a better version of himself. The teachers and therapists at JB really know and understand how to reach children who learn differently. close-quote

JB Parent

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