When you’re a fourth-grader who struggles with reading and writing, going to speech therapy to sharpen those skills after being in school all day may be the last place you want to be.
That is, unless your speech pathologist uses the power of animal magnetism to help make learning fun.
Amy Nebel-Gould, a speech pathologist at Akron Children’s Hospital, realizes that kids sometimes need a boost of fun to keep the enthusiasm for learning strong. That’s why she occasionally invites a member of the hospital’s Doggie Brigade to a group speech session.
“Therapy is hard work, especially when kids are coming straight here from a long day at school,” said Nebel-Gould. “And much of what we work on in therapy has to be reinforced at home with homework. So when the kids complete their homework for 6 sessions in a row, we offer a homework party and invite one of the dogs to join us.”
Nebel-Gould invites a different canine each time, and last Thursday, the kids met Roxie, a red and white Basset Hound.
It was puppy love from the start.
Nebel-Gould had the kids interview Roxie’s handler, Karen Koslowski-Cahoon, about the 7-year-old canine.
As Karen answered their questions, the kids wrote down key facts, with an end goal of writing Roxie’s story. At a later session, they’ll send the stories to Koslowski-Cahoon.
Questions ranged from what tricks Roxie knows to what she eats, the length of her ears and her favorite treat. The kids wrote down Roxie’s birthday, the names of her canine siblings, and how long she’s been a member of the Doggie Brigade.
Then, Roxie showed off her array of tricks, the most popular of which is her ability to whisper by blowing out her cheeks and making a soft murmur. The kids could hardly wait to have a turn to shake paws with her.
Smiles abounded, especially from Nebel-Gould, who clearly loves being able to share these dogs with her patients.
“Many of my patients suffer from anxiety because of their speech issues,” said Nebel-Gould. “Maybe they stutter or have selective mutism. Most of my patients are more comfortable talking to and around dogs because the dog isn’t judging them or talking back. It really helps them enjoy the learning process.”