Therapy Dogs Bring Joy to Austen Academy Staff and Students

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THERAPY dogs have become a central part of the team at a special school for autistic children in Basingstoke.

Austen Academy is a school for autistic children and is the first of its kind in Hampshire.

It is part of the Catch22 Multi-Academies Trust and the site is aimed specifically at students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which is a range of developmental disabilities that can lead to social and behavioral difficulties.

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Since opening in April 2021, the academy has made the most of the dogs’ caring nature and the cute-looking canines have helped with daily activities.

Austen Academy has two dogs that regularly visit the school, Milo and Rusa.

Milo is a 10 year old Cockapoo and is a very sweet soul. He loves to be petted and has a very soothing manner with students. He also has hair that doesn’t fall out.

Rusa is a two year old working cocker spaniel and is lively but very gentle. She comes two or three times a week because she is still young and learning to go to school.

Liz Cooper, Principal of Austen Academy, said: “Milo and Rusa have had a significant positive impact on the whole community here at Austen Academy. For us, having therapy dogs on site has given the students a safe space in which to reflect and relax, we couldn’t be more grateful for the effect they are having.

Both dogs had character assessments from a dog professional.

A school spokesperson added: ‘The dogs spend most of their time in Ms Cooper’s office where they have beds and a sense of security. They also go out into the school building and grounds to visit students and show them around.

“A typical day might include meeting children when they arrive at school, visiting classrooms, spending time with individual children to help them manage their emotional state, and spending time outdoors during breaks with the children.

“They also have plenty of time available to sleep! It is important to understand the emotional state of dogs and if dogs are tired they have time in their bed undisturbed. Dogs are normally eager to come to the school, but on a few days when they don’t seem so lively, they stay home to rest.”

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The school believes the dogs make a significant difference, adding an element that means some children are attending school who would otherwise still be school rejections.

Milo has a special relationship with a student who was a school dropout and is now in school full time. Milo enjoys spending time with this student as much as the student enjoys spending time with him.

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