Justus and Coodanup College

Starting a new school can be a nerve-wracking time, particularly when you are a student with learning difficulties, autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But when you have a four-legged friend in the classroom to greet you with a wagging tail and a cuddle, things can seem a little less daunting.

Justus the Labrador is 2 years old and has been working as an Education Support Dog at Coodanup College in Mandurah, Western Australia for 6 months now.

Justus mostly works with Year 7, although he is there to support all staff and students alike. “Justus brings a lot of joy and unconditional love to everyone who knows him. Teachers from other learning areas have often come to my class with a student who just needs a pat or cuddle with Justus.” Said Rebekka Bell, teacher at Coodanup College.

“Students in my Year 7 class are new to High School, Justus has helped them with this transition and has made them feel less anxious about it.”

“There have been improvements in attendance, reduced negative behaviours and a general sense of happiness and calmness. Another positive outcome is there has been a reduction in the amount of litter around the school, as the students are aware that they need to keep the school grounds clean and safe for Justus.”

“Our classroom rules are built around looking after Justus’s emotional needs too. The student’s interactions with each other are based around how we speak to Justus; say please and thank you, use a kind and friendly voice. Justus has his own little area with his crate and artificial grass right beside our reading corner in the classroom. Students are rostered on to read to Justus everyday as well as to monitor his needs – water, toilet, exercise and emotions. I believe Justus is teaching them empathy, compassion and warmth towards others.”

“In my class he is a friend and companion to all. Our class has students with Learning Difficulties, Autism and ADHD, many of these students have low self-esteem and having Justus helps to reinforce positive behaviours.”

“For our final assembly in 2015 Justus presented the top 5 behaviour awards to the students. My class trained Justus to sit up on a platform and hold a certificate in his mouth, shake hands and give the certificate to the each student.”

On evenings and weekends, Justus lives at home with Rebekka, and loves to play in the garden or at the beach.

“Having Justus I feel so blessed, as he is not just helping one person every day, as an Educational Support Dog, he has a positive impact on so many little lives on a daily basis. We are always smiling whenever he is there.”

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