For more information regarding the reasoning behind the Sensory Program, please check out these resources:
- A study on dander and allergens in a school in the Thames Valley District School Board that introduced a Service Dog
- News article on how therapy dogs can help reduce student stress, anxiety and improve school attendance
- An education article on why schools are starting to use dogs to help students
Student Support Services
Our goal is to provide:
- support through investigating
- resources through partnership
- encouragement through sharing
- opportunities through 1:1 and small-group learning
At Guelph Community Christian School we value a Christ-centred community that is a safe and caring environment in which all students develop their God-given gifts and use them as participants in God’s Kingdom. Each child is to be part of a caring Christian community within the classroom and school. Student Support Services strives to complement and foster this development and feeling of security within the classroom by providing support and assistance, when needed, in order to help the student function more independently within the classroom.
At Guelph Community Christian School we are committed to providing a positive learning environment, in both the regular classroom and Student Support Services. This occurs in different settings: individual or small group settings, sometimes in the regular classroom, and sometimes withdrawn from the classroom. We are committed to meeting the academic and social needs of each student to the best of our ability, in order that each child may feel like an important, integral part of the classroom community.
Striving to meet the unique needs of each student “to the best of our ability” is a challenging process that, at times, requires discussion and review. We utilize several meeting styles to create this communication: In-School Support Team Meetings, Class Check-in Meetings, and Home and School Support Team Meetings.
New in Fall 2019 - Sensory Program
Guelph Community Christian School is dedicated to its mission to “nurture, educate, and inspire students in Christ-centred learning and serving.” The staff at G.C.C.S. understand that each student is uniquely created by God and may require different approaches than their peers to help them learn to the best of their abilities. Vice Principal of Learning, Tanya Pennings, says, “We work to help students understand themselves as learners and members of a community.” A community of learners works best when each student’s learning style is encouraged and incorporated both inside and outside of the classroom.
Sensory integration plays a significant role in the life of a student. It is a process in the brain that allows people to take information from their senses, organize it, and respond appropriately. The ability to regulate one’s mind and body allows people to feel better about their person, less concerned with things that are hindering them, and work to the best of their abilities. GCCS has recently incorporated three new Sensory Program options: The Path, a Fitness Release, and a therapy dog, Sydnie
The Path is a guided course that leads students through a variety of purposeful movements. It is installed on the hallway floor and walls for simple access. Students can take a short break from their schoolwork, utilize muscle groups, and re-enter the classroom, re-energized and ready to learn within minutes.
The Fitness Release can assist students who are having difficulty focusing in class, students with self-regulation or anger management issues, as well as students with neurological differences, such as autism. The Link, G.C.C.S.’s Student Support Services Room, hosts the Fitness Release component of the Sensory Program. This component continues to grow and develop as tools are sourced. The Fitness Release component of G.C.C.S.’s Sensory Program currently has a treadmill, how-to fitness posters and mats, and other tools for high-intensity activity and cool down techniques.
Our therapy dog, Sydnie, is an interactive dog, trained to work with a handler to provide service and comfort to people. Sydnie is a certified therapy dog who was specifically selected for her beautiful temperament and ease of character. Diane Myers, director of Therapeutic Paws of Canada, endorses G.C.C.S.’s acquisition of a therapy dog by noting that, “A warm look, a gentle nuzzle, and the unconditional love of a dog goes a long way to supporting children to be encouraged to learn and to become kind and gentle human beings.” Diane goes on to say, “It is wonderful and exciting to see a school looking seriously at the benefits of having a therapy dog as part of the school environment. I believe that Guelph Community Christian School is embarking on an exciting and innovative way to learning through the development of a therapy dog program. I would be eager to be involved in this program as it is being implemented and as it grows.” Ivan Stam and Barb Stronks, two of G.C.C.S.’s teachers, are certified handlers of Sydnie and will work with her when she interacts directly with students. Interactions may include but are not limited to, greeting students as they enter the school each morning, listening to students read, sitting with a student who is upset or having difficulty focusing in class, going out for recess with students who need encouragement or a friend, and sitting with a group of students who are having a restorative or community circle.
Guelph Community Christian School initiated the three new Sensory Program options over the course of this Fall and students have been responding positively. For example, a student recently requested time on The Path by saying, “I’m getting angry about my writing. May I go sort myself out?” Upon their return from a short time on The Path, this student was able work on their writing with a more positive focus. Staff are encouraged that many students are recognizing when they are feeling unfocused or upset and are asking to use one of the sensory options. Grade Four teacher, Susanne Wood, has several students who request to use the treadmill almost daily and has noticed a remarkable increase in their output upon their return. “It is a small break away from class that reaps big benefits for these student’s outlook on their learning and their ability to accomplish tasks.” G.C.C.S.’s staff are noticing that self-regulation strategies are growing in their students as they utilize the various components of the Sensory Program.
Andrea Groenewald, Registered Psychotherapist, Founder & CEO of Five Star Relationships, champions G.C.C.S.’s Sensory Program by saying, “Children experience a variety of emotions throughout their school day. Learning to identify these feelings and what to do with them is the foundation of emotional intelligence and building resilience for children. Guelph Community Christian School has designed a Sensory Program that has options suitable to assist a variety of students as they build emotional regulation skills. These regulation skills have the potential to become a part of their self-care toolbox for years to come.”
Guelph Community Christian School seeks to recognize the whole child as they learn and grow. Students are wonderfully and fearfully created by God who specializes in making His creation beautifully diverse and intricately complex. At G.C.C.S., staff are aware that each student’s toolbox for learning is unique and their desire is to guide each student in recognizing what is in their toolbox and what they can add to it to help them navigate through life as learners who serve and glorify God. G.C.C.S. is committed to supporting the development of each child’s mind, body, and spirit; empowering them to know their potential. The Sensory Program is an important part of educating and nurturing students at Guelph Community Christian School.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the therapy dog hypoallergenic?
The short answer is no. The longer answer is that we have taken a number of measures to reduce the spread of allergens. One is the place: Sydnie stays mostly in one room, our Support Services centre, not a classroom. Two is hygiene: we will be encouraging kids to wash hands with every interaction. Three is breed selection: there is a reason labs are a popular breed for service work. They are very trainable and forgiving with people's behaviour. They are sturdy physically and seem to have a temperament suited for this work. Finally, we are working from some documents that have tested the prevalence of allergens in rooms with and without service animals (the document is listed in the resources in the left sidebar). The findings suggest little difference when the school takes precautions with the dog. One of our own teachers is allergic and recently they reported no signs or symptoms at school despite the presence of Sydnie over the past 2 months.