Facility Dog, Dottie, Assists at The Winston School
At The Winston School in Del Mar, California, a middle school student with autism
remains in his classroom for the entire duration of math class while occasionally
petting the fluffy head of the Facility Dog (Dottie) in the room. His normal behavior
would be frequently leaving the classroom or asking repeatedly to go to the bathroom.
A high school student with Asperger's Syndrome calmly walks from the bus to his
first class in the morning while holding Dottie's leash and walking beside her.
He would normally resist verbally and physically, refusing to leave the bus and
enter school grounds. A young boy gave a five-minute speech to his classmates, reportedly
unable to focus on task for more than a minute, with Dottie by his side to his teachers'
amazement. These are just a few examples of "everyday victories" and student progress
that Dottie, a TLCAD Facility Dog, assists with at The Winston School.
In September 2013, four furry paws joined in the bustle of students walking the
halls of The Winston School. Dottie makes her rounds to various classrooms and therapy
sessions with her facilitator, Sandy Snodgrass, a parent of a Winston School student
and full time volunteer. Sandy holds a Master's Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling
and focused her thesis on Animal Assisted Therapy. With the expertise of Sandy and
members of The Winston School staff, Dottie performs cues and behaviors that serve
to motivate, calm and increase the goal driven behavior of the student population.
The Winston School is a small non-public school that serves 100 students with learning
differences, including those on the autism spectrum.
By resting her head on a student's desk to increase their focus, or lying across
the feet of a student to calm them during a counseling session, Dottie assists students
by helping them meet their academic and social goals throughout the day. The unique
needs of the student body, the creativity and passion of Sandy and Winston School
staff and Dottie's training and skills present endless possibilities for improving
the lives of these students with a TLCAD Facility Dog. Sandy states, "I never imagined
the results of Animal Assisted Therapy could be this powerful. Dottie's daily calendar
is full with scheduled appointments with students. I would rather be working with
Dottie at The Winston School than anywhere else each day."