Lily, Toffee bring students sweet serenity

Chloe FraserSound Telegraph
Year 8 students Tyler Tuck, Cheyenne Isaacs and Connor van den Ende with school dogs Toffee and Lily.
Camera IconYear 8 students Tyler Tuck, Cheyenne Isaacs and Connor van den Ende with school dogs Toffee and Lily.

Four-legged teaching assistants Lily and Toffee play an important role at Baldivis Secondary College, helping to comfort, calm and de-stress students and staff.

The cavalier King Charles spaniel and Lhasa Apso Maltese job share, with one dog rostered on at the school each day.

Owned by curriculum support manager Leisa Hanson, eight-year-old Lily has worked with the school’s special needs department for about three years, reassuring and settling anxious students.

She is particularly good at supporting about 50 students with autism at the school.

“When these students have a meltdown, they can go into sensory overload and it can be hard for them to communicate or hear what’s happening around them,” Ms Hanson said. “But we can approach them with Lily and through touch they will start to de-escalate and relax.

“She is also very empathetic towards the students. If they come into my office upset or crying because they’ve had a bad day, she will lay on their lap or at their feet and warm them.”

Similarly, 11-year-old Toffee, who is owned by literacy support teacher Kay Longden, works with students who struggle with reading and writing.

Ms Longden said some students could be quite boisterous but with Toffee in the room, they would settle.

“By having Toffee in the room, they are aware of their noise level and their behaviour and they learn better,” she said.

“They also love the reward of being able to take him out for a walk.”

Ms Hanson said both dogs had improved general wellbeing at the school, lighting up any room they visited.

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