Heading back to school can be a stressful time for students and pupils are more anxious than ever after the Covid years. Gianina Schwanecke reports.
Starting school can be rough, but 11-year-old spoodle Ted can help nervous students focus on the paw-sitive.
As school returns, he’ll be helping meet and greet students coming through the gates at several Wellington schools.
“He just takes all my worries away,” one student said.
Having a dog to take students around the school helped create a sense of safety, explained Elizabeth McKee, founder of the therapy dog service Ted’s Space.
McKee, a specialist teacher that works with neurodiverse students, started Ted's Space in 2017 to help some of her new entrants.
Ted was already well trained as a canine companion visiting hospitals and resthomes, and she saw a student go from not talking to reading to Ted and other students in class.
Ted’s Space became a registered charitable organisation in 2021 and it now works with between 100-150 students a week across seven Wellington schools.
During this time she has seen students grow their sense of “mana” and “confidence” through working with Ted and two other dogs who have been added to the team, Daisy and Willow.
McKee said students’ feelings of anxiety seemed to have increased in recent years.
“I know we're so many years down the track [from Covid], but it is still affecting our students.
“When we went back to school we were meeting students at the gate and walking them to their classroom because they were so anxious about were they going to be here today and were they going to be here tomorrow.”
Anxiety is a “normal, natural human feeling” designed to protect us in days gone by, explained Dr Emma Woodward, director of psychological services at The Child Psychology Service.
“However, sometimes anxiety or our brain makes us feel anxious about things we don’t need to feel anxious about at all.”