Any person who has ever had a fear of public speaking knows how utterly terrifying it can be to be forced up in front of an audience, trying to find your voice when everyone is staring directly at you. It doesn’t matter if you’re an adult trying to give a presentation for a child who is just learning to read out loud, the very idea of speaking out loud in a public setting can be anxiety-inducing, even under the best circumstances. For some people, it’s almost crippling. That’s precisely why a high school in Louisville, Kentucky has taken some rather unique measures to help kids become more comfortable when reading out loud. It all comes in the form of a therapy dog named Omni that is genuinely changing the lives of children in this particular school.
A Unique Program
The school in question, Eastern High, has been utilizing the particular program that Omni is a part of for at least the last four years. It’s important to note that Omni is not owned by the school or by anyone who is directly associated with the staff. Instead, he is part of a nonprofit organization that is called Paws for a Purpose. Typically, the organization uses dogs to help people with disabilities find better ways to cope with doing things that they must typically do in everyday life. A number of years ago, the organization began to explore the possibility of using the same dogs in schools so that children could learn to become more comfortable with things like reading out loud or public speaking. Granted, some of the children involved do have pronounced disabilities, but not all of them are struggling with something that has been diagnosed. It didn’t take long for the teachers at Eastern High School to figure out that all students seemed to be more comfortable whenever Omni was in the room. As a result, he has become an instrumental part in helping teachers allow students to find their own way when it comes to learning to read out loud. In short, Omni’s presence makes most of the students more comfortable and that allows them to do things that they had initially believed they couldn’t do. The student who was always reluctant to read out loud is now anxious to read because they have an opportunity to read directly to Omni. At the very least, students who were previously uncomfortable find it easier to cope because they can pet him while they are reading. In some cases, just watching Omni act like any other dog from one moment to the next is enough to encourage them to read when they might have otherwise been far too shy to have even thought about doing so. The teachers of the school say that it is nothing short of astounding to watch what Omni is able to accomplish with some students in only a few short minutes. By the same token, the teachers also point out that many of these students who are making the greatest strides are the ones that the teachers themselves have been trying to encourage for months or even years, with little or no success.
Help for Students of All Ages
A lot of people have the misconception that dogs like Omni are only there to help the school’s youngest students with their reading difficulties, but that simply isn’t true. In fact, he routinely participates in these same activities with high school students as well as kids who are entering the first or second grade. Many of the teachers who utilize Omni and other dogs like him for the program have recognized that it’s not only the school’s youngest students that often need help. Unfortunately, students sometimes fall through the cracks and when they do, they end up struggling with things in high school that were never addressed when they were younger. By recognizing those issues and then addressing them properly, it becomes much easier to help prepare those students for life after high school. One of the biggest avenues in accomplishing these types of things is to build up the students’ confidence in themselves so that they know that they can achieve anything they want, even when they have to step outside of their comfort zone in order to do it. If the use of a therapy dog can help them accomplish those goals, officials at the school see no reason not to give them that opportunity so that they can use it as one more avenue for success later on down the road.
A Program That Works
While the program that is underway at this particular school is one of the more unique programs in the country, they certainly aren’t the only school that recognizes the importance of using therapy dogs to help students in a variety of different situations. In fact, quite a few schools around the country have started to recognize the possibility of using therapy dogs to help students read better. Even more are currently using therapy dogs to be there in order to help support students who might be going through a tough time. Whether a student is having a bad day or is dealing with something that is genuinely traumatic in the long-term, the very presence of a therapy dog can make it easier to face a day at school, something that isn’t always easy to face for students who are suffering from anxiety, depression or who are the victims of bullying. Omni is just one example of what can potentially be achieved by utilizing these types of programs to help students come out of her shell. The idea is that by helping students grow and learn while they’re still in school, they will then be able to take those same skills and utilize them throughout the rest of their lives. Whether that involves professional goals or issues related to their personal life, it’s something that can help students become the best version of themselves, even when they’re struggling with something that most people might not understand. That’s because the beautiful thing about dogs is that they have a tendency to understand when someone is struggling, even though those struggles are unspoken.