Slovakia: Dog Barking Can Be a Treat

Hlohovec, Podzamska Primary School

Therapy-Reading-DogThe largest Primary School in Hlohovec, near the University town of Trnava in Western Slovakia, is utilizing animal therapy as a means of integration. Pupils with learning difficulties have an opportunity to feed, brush, or cuddle with animals under professional supervision. They learn how to build mutual respect and abide by the rules which is necessary when dealing with animals. Hippo- therapy – or horse riding – helps these pupils to balance their body properly, feel the rhythm, breath regularly and develop their concentration. The animals help these pupils to improve their self-discipline and responsibility skills.

Canis-therapy normally starts by sitting in a circle. The therapeutical dog sits in the middle. “Children are given a topic and are asked to come up with a story on this topic or they have to answer questions,” explains special pedagogue Helena Kolnikova. “If they get the right answer, the dog treats them by barking. This way, pupils are encouraged to speak fluently about a concrete topic – which is often a problem for those who suffer from impaired language development. The dog is a great source of motivation for them,” she exclaims. The therapy continues with sight and concentration exercises. At the end, the pupils are asked to direct the dog through an obstacle course. The dog barks after successful completion of the course.

An integral part of drama-therapy is creative drama exercises. The basis of a drama exercise is role-playing, situation drama and interpretation. “The primary goal is expression of one’s own thoughts and playing with sounds, objects, movement, words, and space,” explain Dr. Dana Kollarova, who supervised an improvisation drama called “Circus”. Children performed at the “World of School Muses” festival and had a chance to stand in front of a big audience for the very first time in their lives. dog001

The project allowed for development of a new methodological material. Qualitative research was also an integral part of the project. The Project Coordinator believes that this kind of therapy is suitable for children with learning difficulties, but also those suffering from health problems: “Two pupils were not able to say a word on public prior to the therapy. After its completion, they were ready to perform in front of an audience. All pupils who participated in the project improved their academic performance, and nine of them were awarded a Distinction for commendable academic improvement by their School Boards.”

The Education Program of the Open Society Foundation Slovakia helps to eliminate cultural and social exclusion of pupils and supports educational actions and strategies which allows integrate and/or reintegrate them. Emphasizing the position of school as not only the institution where to get an education but the school as the important actor of community living, OSF granted 15 projects of total 64 136 EUR in 2010 to enhance integration of children with special educational needs.


Tags: ,


Share this Post