ACCESS-ABILITY Volume3_Issue2 - Page 26

A N IM A L K IN D "OFFICE HOURS" With Ryan Fielding Lik e m an y dist r ict s, An dover h as em br aced Social an d Em ot ion al Lear n in g (SEL) as a f r am ew or k f or f ost er in g t h e developm en t of sk ills r elat ed t o self -aw ar en ess, self -m an agem en t , social aw ar en ess, r elat ion sh ip bu ildin g, an d r espon sible decision -m ak in g. SEL cu r r icu la pair w it h academ ic cu r r icu la t o pr ovide st u den t s w it h t he best oppor t u n it ies f or w ell-r ou n ded per son al developm en t . Wh ile pr oblem solvin g an d r eason in g sk ills ar e n ecessar y f or per son al an d occu pat ion al f u n ct ion in g, w e don?t oper at e in a vacu u m -- w e live in a w or ld f illed w it h ot h er people. Sk ills f or u n der st an din g an d car in g abou t ot h er s, r elat in g t o ot h er s, an d solvin g pr oblem s r elat ion ally ar e of equ al im por t an ce t o in t ellect u al gr ow t h . On e gr ou p t h at can h elp ch ildr en w it h t h ese sk ills f or r elat in g t o ot h er people is an im als! Th er e ar e n u m er ou s clin ical r esear ch st u dies lin k in g con t act w it h an d car in g f or an im als, in clu din g pet ow n er sh ip, as r elat ed t o m or e posit ive ar eas of ch ild developm en t . St u dies h ave sh ow n eviden ce f or an associat ion bet w een ch ild-an im al r elat ion sh ips an d a w ide r an ge of em ot ion al ben ef it s, especially f or posit ive self -est eem an d r edu ced lon elin ess. An im als h ave been sh ow n t o f acilit at e t h e developm en t of h ealt h y copin g sk ills in addit ion t o bein g t h e f acilit at or of copin g t h em selves w h en ch ildr en ar e acu t ely st r essed. For exam ple, specially t r ain ed com f or t an im als, su ch as t h e com f or t dogs t h at visit ed APS af t er last year ?s gas cr isis, h ave been in cr edibly pow er f u l post -ven t ion agen t s f ollow in g com m u n it y level cr ises an d t r agedies. St u dies also sh ow eviden ce of an associat ion bet w een ch ild-an im al r elat ion sh ips an d edu cat ion al an d cogn it ive ben ef it s. For exam ple, ch ildr en w it h su ch r elat ion al oppor t u n it ies dem on st r at e em ot ion al r egu lat ion , in cr eased per spect ive-t ak in g, an d capacit y f or em pat h y, w h ich ar e all cor e ar eas addr essed by SEL. Fu r t h er , r esear ch on ch ild-an im al con n ect ion s h as sh ow n posit ive ef f ect s on social developm en t , in clu din g social com pet en ce, t h e br eadt h of a ch ild?s social r elat ion sh ips, an d pr osocial beh avior du r in g cooper at ive play w it h peer s. In essen ce, t h e r esear ch h as su ppor t ed ou r gen er al u n der st an din g of ch ildr en all alon g. Wh en ch ildr en ar e pr ovided w it h oppor t u n it ies t o car e f or ot h er s, an im als an d h u m an s alik e, an d f eel car ed f or by ot h er s, t h ey becom e h appier an d h ealt h ier .