RICHMOND (WRIC) - For students who have difficulties learning, a traditional classroom brings challenges every day. So the New Community School and Richmond SPCA are teaming up for a program that allows these teens to be Positively Richmond.
From the outside, it might look like the basics of dog training. But the lesson goes well beyond sit, stay and down.
"I sometimes have trouble putting what I'm thinking into words and I read very well, but sometimes I don't understand what I'm reading," says Zarina Donovan.
"We have students who are average or above average intelligence but have a learning difference with language or reading, mostly dyslexia," says New Community School Teacher Laura Lesher
This is the brainchild of Steve Humphrey, New Community's upper school dean. He had done some dog training on his own and thought teenagers could learn from it too.
Sarah Babcock of the Richmond SPCA has been working with new community students since 2007 to bring science and psychology to life.
"He was really on to something," she says." I think it's been valuable."
It's the same classical conditioning and reward-based training they read about and then apply.
"The kids are really patient and they stick with it and it's amazing the results by the end," Babcock says.
While the students work with their own dogs or ones from the SPCA, they are in charge.
It's the confidence boost many of them need.
"He loves to teach her and I've noticed a sense of accomplishment when they finish here," says Caroline York.
"I actually get to interact with animals," Donovan says. "I'm not really good with people so I get to interact with animals, pets so it makes it much easier on me."
"They learn differently," York says. "Once they know how to learn, the sky's the limit."
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