"He just comes into class each day, picks the kids he wants to sit with and just settles down," support unit head teacher Martin Moore said. "He doesn't need to do anything - just having a dog in the classroom has a calming influence on the students.They just continue on with their work with him by their side, maybe stopping to give him a pat or a scratch occasionally.He doesn't judge students or reprimand them if they're angry or frustrated but he just instantly seems to have a positive effect on their mood."
Lake Illawarra is the first school in the country to have an assistance dog and Mr Moore said he'd encourage other schools to take their lead.
"We got Benson to work with students in our support unit who have mild to moderate intellectual disabilities or emotional disturbances," Mr Moore said.
"We had been looking for a way to reduce truancy, increase motivation and reduce anxiety among these kids and through our research we discovered a US school district which had had great success with using dogs in the classroom. Since Benson has started, there's been a noticeable difference in the classrooms of our support unit - there's been an increase in attendance and positive incidents such as students helping each other. And there's been a drop in negative incidents like bullying and minor violence."
The school obtained Benson from Assistance Dogs Australia, which is based in Heathcote and provides assistance dogs for people with a range of intellectual and physical disabilities.
To see the video visit: www.illawarramercury.com.au/story/1509493/video-benson-goes-to-teachers-aid/?cs=300