Franklin, during his puppy days!
Already in training!
Meet Franklin, Wheelock School's Classroom Service Dog! Everyone at Wheelock is so excited about this wonderful opportunity. Last summer, a principal colleague of mine shared that her school was acquiring a classroom service dog. She shared information about the NEADS organization. Curious about the idea, I began to research NEADS.
The NEADS organization began in 1976 with a doantion from the Medfield Lions Club. NEADS Dogs are taught a list of core commands and they follow a basic training schedule throughout puppyhood. However, once a dog is nearing completion of the program and is matched with a specific client, the dog’s training is tailored to the client’s unique needs. After clients experience 10-14 days of training with a skilled instructor, they can barely remember a time when the dog wasn’t a part of their lives.
The organization has trained Service Dog Teams for 39 years. Through research and experience, the instructors remain up to date with current training methods and trends in the industry. NEADS routinely explores new dog breeds and new tasks to make certain they are meeting the needs of all clients. Most importantly, NEADS raises and trains the perfect working partner for each client.
Assistance Dogs International Accreditation
NEADS is proud to be an active member of Assistance Dogs International (ADI), the internationally recognized governing body that establishes industry standards and practices. ADI provides accreditation for canine assistance organizations that meet a selective set of criteria, including standards of excellence in the acquisition, training, and partnership of Assistance Dogs. NEADS clients are expected to maintain the minimum standards that ADI sets.
Many clients are special education teachers who seek a unique and effective way to connect with the children in their classrooms. The presence of a dog can put many people at ease and allows them to start participating more freely than they would have otherwise. Children tend to form a special bond with animals and often find comfort in that relationship.
Clients live on the NEADS 18-acre campus for 5-10 days, training with their new Service Dogs. Their training involves intensive learning about how to live and work with a Service Dog.
NEADS schedules 2-5 clients to train at one time. Classes occur daily from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. with an hour lunch break. Classes include active, hands-on exercises with the dog, trips into town restaurants and malls, and sit-down classes in subjects such as health records, first aid, grooming and public access. Most classes are taught by the instructor who has overseen the dog's training and who matched the dog with the client. Other classes are taught by various NEADS staff members.
The dog begins to live at the client’s house after three or four days of training. The client becomes responsible for the dog's total care and exercise after class hours. Each client must successfully complete the training schedule and also receive a passing score on a public access test to graduate and leave campus with the Service Dog.
After learning about the organization and conferring with Dr. Marsden, I asked staff for their feedback. Feedback was positive and three teachers expressed interest in applying for the program to own the dog and bring it to Wheelock every day to "work" with our students.
One teacher, Mrs. Kelley Kennedy, Access Teacher, applied for the program and was accepted. NEADS tells applicants that dogs are usually matched with them from within 2 months to a year. We were quite surprised that a dog was ready for us so soon.
After meeting with the NEADS representatives, Dr. Marsden, Mrs. Kennedy and I were confident the dog available was a great match for Kelley, her classroom and Wheelock School. If we refused this dog, we had no idea when another match would be found. Each dog is carefully matched with its partner and environment. We were delighted that NEADS had matched Mrs. Kennedy with a male, yellow lab and golden retriever mix, named Franklin.
Franklin has had over 17 months of training to pass certification for a classroom service dog. He continues to practice his skills and his behavior is kept at the highest levels. Franklin was trained at the NEADS (National Education for Assistance Dog Services) in Princeton, MA. and Mrs. Kennedy will spend a week there training with Franklin in February. Franklin will join our school community after February vacation.
Mrs. Kennedy will introduce Franklin to the Wheelock community after vacation. Service dogs cost over $25, 000 to raise and train. Kelley had to commit to raise $8,000 to defray the costs for Franklin. If you are interested in learning more about NEADS and perhaps making a donation, please visit the NEADS website.
If you have questions or concerns about Franklin and what he will do at Wheelock School, please click the link for additional information. I do want to assure our families that we are planning explicit ways we will allow Franklin to interact with our students. We will ensure the well being of all students and take allergy/fear of dogs needs into serious consideration.
On Friday, February 10th at the Principal's Coffee at 9:00am, Mrs. Olson, Mrs. Kennedy, NEADS representatives, Mr. John Moon (Medfield resident) will present information about the service dog program and answer questions.
I hope you are as excited as we are to welcome Franklin. We have been planning for this and believe it will be an extremely beneficial experience for our students. Acquiring a classroom service dog supports our social emotional learning goals and is shown to diminish student anxiety in both academic and social settings. We hope students will choose to interact with Franklin, but participating in his care and activities will be voluntary.
Wheelock is getting ready for the Super Bowl and wish the Patriots good luck on Sunday! Here are some of our children showing their spirit!
Congratulations to our January Good Character Hoot raffle winners! When students receive a Hoot, they automatically receive an owl charm on a necklace. In addition, their Hoot card goes into a fishbowl for a monthly drawing. The five students selected may choose from a wide variety of privileges. This month, two students chose extra recess and the other three raffle winners chose to listen to music on a headset in class. All students who receive a Hoot card will be invited to a Good Character breakfast at the end of the term in March. Keep up the great work showing respect, responsibility and safety boys and girls!
Have a great weekend,