Animal therapy for special needs students

Students who have special needs can’t always get the help they deserve at even the best traditional schools.  But evidence is slowly emerging that placing them in schools where animals constitute the center of learning is paying off (“ ‘I Had Finally Found the Right Place for My Son,’ “ The New York Times, Mar. 3).

At Green Chimneys, located on a former dairy farm in Putnam County, NY., students make remarkable progress by caring for animals.  Although this fully accredited day and residential school is expensive, with tuition at $50,000 for day students and much more for boarders, the demand continues to grow. Perhaps that’s because school districts pay the tuition due to the shortage of certified special-education teachers in public schools.

But another more likely reason is that animals provide the love and support many students have never had before.  There’s an old expression that there’s something about the outside of a horse that’s good for the inside of a man.  I’d expand that to include all animals, both big and small.  I expect to see new studies conducted that confirm the benefits of animal therapy. It’s not a panacea, but I submit that it is invaluable.

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