Pups and Kids With Autism Learn Together

Golden retriever pups pile into a classroom in a furry ball of cuddly curiosity. To some, they may all look alike. Max, a student, sees seven friends he can call by name. How does a bond like this happen?
“Because I love them,” Max shared in the heartwarming video below.
The paws4people foundation partnered with a Georgia school to form the LionPaws Puppy Development Center. Lionheart School for students with autism welcomed the pets this year, and the program is infusing cheer and confidence in children and pups alike.
This first group of puppies spent four months with the students before springing into the next phase of their mission of caring and ultimately finding homes, mostly with veterans. Another young bunch will renew the good work, so kids will keep forming friendships with canine buddies.
The students play with and look after the pups, who are companions in the classroom and on field trips. The cute pals are good conversation starters, encouraging kids to talk with people they meet on outings. This socialization helps reduce students’ anxiety and strengthen emotional connections while readying the puppies for the rest of their journey of service.
Sarah Rosenbaum, LionPaws program director, sees the benefits for students. The dogs soothe and help them concentrate. Also, “non-verbal children become chatty” and “children with motor-skill deficits get up and run to see the puppies.” These friendships foster skills for kids and pups; students take on new responsibilities, and the dogs start their education in helping people.
It’s a symbiotic relationship. Rosenbaum sums it up as, “The children are providing for the puppies, and the puppies are providing for the children.”


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