Welcome to The Broach School, where education takes a paws-itive twist! Our commitment to providing exceptional learning experiences for students with special needs goes beyond the conventional. Within each of our four Northeast Florida campuses, we have a pack of remarkable service dogs that play a vital role in creating an inclusive and supportive environment for our students.

In this blog post, we will embark on an exciting journey to explore the numerous benefits of our service dogs and how they enrich the daily lives of our students and families, but first: the story of how it all began:

Once upon a time, Kathy Foster, the Broach School President, had an idea: a partnership with Henderson Haven.

Henderson Haven, a charitable organization situated in Orange Park, Florida, specializes in delivering comprehensive behavioral intervention, early intervention programs for autism, developmental disability services, autism service dogs, and valuable resources for parents and caregivers.

The incorporation of service animals to help individuals with special needs sparked her interest. Eager to explore the possibilities, Kathy embarked on a journey that would forever change the landscape of The Broach School.

Enter Edison, a remarkable canine with a unique background. Having gone through two previous placements, he was in need of a loving and supportive home. In the summer months, Edison arrived at The Broach School after undergoing a thorough assessment by Project Chance to ensure a perfect match. With anticipation and excitement in the air, the students and staff eagerly took Edison for a walk around the campus and even ventured out into the public, proudly showcasing their new furry companion.

As Edison settled into his new home at The Broach School, it quickly became apparent that he had a special history. He had once been a service dog, and the children were overjoyed to have such a prestigious companion in their midst. However, there were some initial challenges to overcome, such as Edison’s inclination to sneakily devour everyone’s lunch! Nonetheless, his infectious charm and loving nature made him an instant hit with both the students and staff.

In a heartwarming turn of events, Edison’s presence even managed to win over the front office lady, who initially had reservations about having a dog in the school. A dedicated staff member took it upon themselves to forge a bond with her, and the persuasive power of Edison’s undeniable charm ultimately led to a daily tradition of McDonald’s treats for everyone involved.

Edison became a beloved novelty at The Broach School, bringing immense joy, laughter, and countless unforgettable moments. His playful antics and unwavering loyalty touched the hearts of everyone he encountered, fostering an even stronger sense of unity and community within the school.

And so, from that moment on, the presence of service dogs became an integral part of The Broach School’s identity. Kathy’s determination to explore the potential benefits of service dogs had blossomed into a reality that would continue to enrich the lives of students and staff alike for years to come.

It’s been 7 years since the introduction of the first service dog, and now the Broach School is the proud home of 7 Retrievers. Some of the benefits of these furry companions include:

Unconditional Companionship:

Service dogs at The Broach School are not just highly trained professionals; they are also lovable and affectionate companions. These furry superheroes offer unconditional love and support, creating a strong bond with our students. Students often find solace in the calming presence of a service dog, promoting emotional well-being and reducing anxiety levels.

Enhancing Social Skills:

The presence of service dogs encourages social interaction among students. Our furry friends act as “ice-breakers” and help bridge communication gaps. Students can practice their social skills, such as taking turns to interact with the service dogs, grooming them, or playing fetch. These interactions promote teamwork, empathy, and cooperation, fostering a positive social environment.

Emotional Regulation:

Emotional regulation is a critical skill for students with special needs. Service dogs are natural experts in this area. They possess an innate ability to sense emotions and offer comfort when needed. The gentle touch and calming aura of a service dog can help regulate emotions, reduce stress, and create a sense of security for our students. This emotional support aids in self-soothing and increases overall emotional resilience.

Sensory Integration:

Many students at The Broach School have sensory processing challenges. Service dogs are trained to assist in sensory integration therapy, which helps students better process and respond to sensory stimuli. For example, a service dog can help redirect attention during sensory overload or act as a grounding presence during moments of distress. These interactions significantly contribute to the students’ sensory development and overall well-being.

Academic Support:

Service dogs play a unique role in the academic journey of our students. They can accompany students to classrooms, libraries, and therapy sessions, providing a comforting presence. The dogs help reduce distractions and increase focus, enhancing the students’ ability to learn and retain information. The positive energy and motivation provided by these incredible animals can truly make a difference in the academic achievements of our students.

Encouraging Independence:

Service dogs empower our students to become more independent. From navigating through busy hallways to carrying items in specially designed harnesses, these dogs assist our students in various daily activities. This assistance not only enhances mobility but also boosts self-confidence and promotes a sense of empowerment. Students develop essential life skills and become more self-reliant, positively impacting their overall development.

Transition Support:

Transitioning between activities or environments can be challenging for students with special needs. Service dogs at The Broach School act as steadfast companions during these transitions, providing reassurance and stability. Whether it’s transitioning between classes, attending therapy sessions, or participating in community outings, the service dogs are there every step of the way, offering comfort and support.

At The Broach School, our service dogs are an integral part of our community, bringing joy, support, and countless benefits to our students. Their unwavering companionship, emotional regulation abilities, sensory integration support, and academic assistance contribute to a fun and inclusive learning environment.

We invite parents to consider the remarkable impact a service dog can have on their child’s educational journey. Learn more about enrolling your child at The Broach School today!