Hendrix takes on school

We have been super busy this school year and have now finished our adolescent training classes ensuring that Hendrix will sit, stay, walk nicely and not jump up on everyone when he sees them. We are still working on the jumping but so far, he is doing very well!

So well in fact that I took him recently into a special school with me for the day. It was AMAZING!

I work as part of a small team of Speech and Language Therapists within a special school and from the moment the team arrived in school, Hendrix started his day. He fussed over our signing lady who has a hearing dog, he greeted our new therapist and gave paw to our colleagues who he has already met before. After sniffing around the office in search of his other 4-legged work buddy, he pinched his colleague’s blanket and promptly fell asleep!!!

Once the children arrived, we visited a pre-school classroom. Hendrix first came in here when he was still a puppy and two of the children instantly remembered him. They put down their activities and came over, tapping me on the head and promptly dropping down into my lap for licks and tickles with Hendrix. One child has an incredible bond with Hendrix already. This child already has a family dog within the home and so rough, tumble and ball play is a regular activity. This child finds tolerating adult direction tricky and it is a challenge for staff to find motivators that enable access to learning and interaction. Hendrix is a different matter. Straight into the room, straight down onto the floor and lots of smiles, eye contact and tactile communication with me as Hendrix’s “hooman”.

This wonderful pre-schooler spent a good 15 minutes playing with Hendrix and I. We threw the ball, teased Hendrix with our favourite fidget toy which we had to rescue back a few times. This caused laughter and an even stringer shared connection between the student and Hendrix’s hooman. We looked at each other, laughing and smiling whilst chasing after Hendrix and the wobbly tube hanging from his chops! Hendrix too thought it was a brilliant game but once he heard his command, he dropped the tube and came straight over to his student to wait patiently. We were able to give Hendrix a little treat for handing back the tube when asked and then went for a lovely long walk together, jointly holding his lead.

I learnt that attention and engagement shouldn’t be hard work. It can be simple, inspiring and fun. The student has already made a connection that Hendrix belongs to me and I am therefore part of that play and interaction. I even get the same head rub that the student gives to the dog which is lovely and makes everyone laugh when they see the state of my hair afterwards. This is one of the major reasons I wanted a therapy dog. Connections between people are vital for our SEN learners. Strengthening social connections doesn’t always have to be with people. Animals can do the same thing and often act as a wonderful bridge to human and human connections. After one full day, I am so excited about what the future holds for Hendrix the therapy dog. We will keep you updated.

If you have any questions or comments or wish to talk about social communication and learning disability, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Happy Easter 😊

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