Ivory, Teacher’s Assistant
As an individual whom has worked with children and adults with special needs for the last ten years, I am well aware of the various challenges they face. I work as a teacher in a special needs classroom, as well as co-ordinate a summer program for the Alberta Association for the Dependently Handicapped. I am constantly looking for new ways to improve the overall independence and quality of life for my students/campers. Each of these individuals has amazing gifts and it is my job to find out how we can best utilize them.
I found out about Dogs With Wings through a teaching colleague, who had recently heard that there was a service dog working in a neighboring school. I immediately contacted the school to set up a visit and this is where the journey to receiving our classroom/summer-camp service dog began.
After seeing in person, the numerous successes this service dog had made happen, I knew immediately that I needed a Dogs With Wings dog to work with my students and summer program. I received Ivory in the spring of 2011 and the success stories have been accumulating ever since. Ivory works in my classroom daily, performing a variety of jobs with each student. He also works throughout the summer, with up to 25 different children with special needs. Some days he works as a comforting friend- calming a child who not one of the numerous adults in the room could console. Some days he works as a safety patrol- allowing our children to walk safely in the community, while keeping them safe from bolting onto the road. And some days he works as a motivator- encouraging a child, who often refuses to leave their wheelchair, to take a few steps in their walker so they can make it over to Ivory to give him a pet.
In the school setting, Ivory is not only utilized by my classroom, but a variety of other children in the school as well. Children from the Specialized Therapy Educational Play Program (a program designed for children with autism spectrum disorder), have daily interactions with Ivory on their school days. Other students around the school (with a variety of medical, emotional and behavior needs) come to visit Ivory on a regular basis. I recently had a colleague tell me that a student, who refused to ever write more than their name, wrote THREE full sentences about how much they love Ivory. There is continual affirmation that Ivory has not only touched the lives of students in my classroom and summer camp, but of the whole school community. The benefits and success stories are non-stop and I can’t wait to see what Ivory helps another individual accomplish next!