McHenry, IL: Therapy animals used to "reduce disciplinary issues" in classrooms

Dec 30, 2017, Chicago Daily Herald: How animal-assisted therapy helps students cope with anxiety Educators may employ many tactics to correct behavioral issues among students. From proverbial and literal smacks on the wrists to modern-day detentions and suspensions, none works all too well, experts say. One suburban school district is taking a unique approach: animal-assisted therapy.

McHenry High School District 156 this year, in partnership with Main Stay Therapeutic Farm in Richmond, launched the pilot experiential learning program for at-risk students that's an alternative to detentions and suspensions.

"It's something different," said Becky Covalt, district director of special education. "We are trying to reduce disciplinary issues that would normally involve suspensions. We really want it to be more of an intervention rather than a consequence. The hardest part is getting kids to commit. If we get them there for that first (visit), it's never a problem trying to get them to come back."

District 156 has been partnering with Main Stay for three years, allowing select students, including special education classrooms, to participate in animal-assisted activities and therapy and do community service there. The experiential learning program is funded by a nearly $11,000 grant from the McHenry County Community Foundation and allows all students a chance to experience animal-assisted therapy.