Pet therapy, a simple way to help children with anxiety, whilst also boosting self-confidence and social skills, is proving a hit at St Mary’s School and College.
Pupils at St Mary’s have a range of complex needs arising from speech, language and communication issues and staff there have noticed a positive change in the confidence of the children since starting pet therapy.
Amongst the variety of activities that the pupils take part in the evenings at school have been walking Annie the Greyhound along the seafront and taking her shopping at to buy her favourite treats.
They have also had a workshop which taught them how to care for animals. Horse-riding at Fairlight Stables has also proved popular and therapeutic.
A fish called Salty, which has been named after the school’s mascot Salty the Starfish, lives in Bluebird Residential area and the pupils take it turns to feed and care for him.
Other visitors to the residential areas have been, Wade and Weasley who are both guinea pigs, Scout the rabbit and Oakley a baby wood pigeon that was rescued from the school grounds and was nurtured by the pupils and staff.
A regular visitor has been Sue from Bexhill Furry Friends who also attends the St Mary’s summer club, who has brought small animals for the children to handle.
Bexhill Furry Friends is a charity which raises friendly rabbits which are taken round hospitals, hospices, children’s homes and old people care homes, where people are allowed to play with and cuddle them
Cooper the dog is another visitor who lives with one of the House Managers at St Mary’s. The pupils enjoyed cuddling him and learning what he eats and how to care for him.
St Mary’s was founded in 1922 as a special school for disabled children by medical professionals who wanted to provide the best possible start for young people who then had few opportunities to access education with support. It provides non-maintained residential education and therapy for children and young people aged 7 – 19 who have severe speech, language and/or communication difficulties.
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