O'Fallon Progress

Meet Koda, Central School District’ newest staff member

Left, O’Fallon District 104 Superintendent John Bute sits during a BASSC meeting last summer.
Left, O’Fallon District 104 Superintendent John Bute sits during a BASSC meeting last summer. rkirsch@bnd.com

Joseph Arthur Middle School is very pleased to announce the newest addition to our school, Koda, a Certified Therapy Dog.

Koda, will be working at JAMS with Becky Watson, School Social Worker.

Koda is a 5-year-old Golden Retriever with a very sweet and gentle disposition who has been trained and certified by CHAMP Assistance Dogs, a nonprofit organization which places skilled service dogs with people who have disabilities and provides disability awareness education and therapy dog teams to the St. Louis, Missouri area.

In addition, Watson has undertaken a very extensive training and has completed her certification as a dog handler.

The addition of a therapeutic service dog at JAMS will provide an innovative approach to addressing many academic challenges, as well as, social and emotional needs.

Koda will be available to address the needs of all JAMS students, but will primary be utilized with the individuals that work directly with Watson.

While Koda’s main work area will be the social worker's office, which is secure and separate from the classrooms or within the special education classrooms, children will be able to interact with the dog under supervision at designated times.

Research has demonstrated that therapy dogs in the school setting can make a measurable difference in terms of gaining various cognitive skills such as reading enhancement, stimulating memory, and problem solving, but also in contributing to social and emotional development.

The presence of a therapy dog can decrease anxiety, improve self-esteem and acceptance from others and enable students to work through issues such as anger management, bullying tendencies and other social challenges. A therapy dog can serve as a vehicle for forming adaptive and satisfactory social interaction while teaching children to nurture and respect life. Guided activities and group discussions help teach students how to handle interpersonal conflicts and develop constructive responses. The introduction of a therapy dog also has physical benefits by reducing blood pressure, provides tactile stimulation and giving extra motivation.

Due to the potential positive effects that a therapeutic dog will have on our school community as a whole, we expect to see an overall increase in social / emotional and academic development. This will, in-turn, allow students to generalize these skills across all areas of the curriculum, in partnership with school, home, and community.

Can you imagine our students being inspired by the use of a therapy dog to assist them to achieve their potential? We do.

For more information regarding Koda, contact Watson at 632-6336 ext. 160.