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The Kansan - Newton, KS
  • Therapy dog helps children learn, pay attention in class

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  • When it comes to learning their ABCs, some children need a different style of teaching. At Prairie View, these students get help from a four-legged friend named Wicker.At just 5-years-old, this long-haired corgi is “very intuitive to what the needs of the students are,” said Carol Haigler, the special education teacher with Prairie View's Special Purpose School.Haigler teaches fifth through eighth graders with a variety of needs, ranging from ADHD to severe learning disabilities.Having Wicker in the class with her, Haigler said, “She offers therapy. The kids can take five with her, if there’s kind of an underlying feeling going on with the kids, sometimes you’ll see her hanging out under their desk. As mad as they are, as upset as they are, they’ll still start reaching down and petting her and she’ll bring them to a calming place.”Aside from simply helping keep the students calm, Haigler also focuses some of her lesson plans around the pooch.“Lessons go around her,” she explained. “We use her for all kinds of math activities and all kinds of art activities.”Wicker was trained as part of the CARES program in Concordia. Haigler said having the pet in class makes teaching much easier and much more fun.“I couldn’t imagine doing half as good a job as I do without her. She is definitely my right arm.”One thing Wicker makes sure she does not do, though, is distract from the lessons of the day. However, Haigler is well aware of issues pertaining to pet allergies and the problems attached to those.“Actually, I’m the allergic one!” she said with a laugh. “I definitely take my medication.”Prairie View is a faith-based, private behavioral and mental health services provider, offering a complete range of behavioral and psychiatric services for children, adolescents, adults and older adults, as well as consultation services to businesses and organizations. In addition to the main campus, including outpatient offices, an inpatient addictions treatment center and a psychiatric hospital in Newton, Prairie View has outpatient locations in Hillsboro, Hutchinson, McPherson and Wichita. For more information, call 284-6400 or (800) 362-0180. 

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