Metuchen: Officials Discuss Therapy Dog Program for Special Needs Moss School Students

Source: Central Jersey.com

In an effort to “reduce the duration and frequency of very challenging and very destructive behavior” of students, Moss School principal Richard Cohen has included a pilot program for a therapy dog.

The school has three sessions of the Metuchen Intervention Pre-School Program (MIPP), which is a program for children between the ages of 3 and 5 who have been identified as having specific needs which can be corrected or lessened when addressed at an early age.

Cohen said the Moss School Leadership team had picked a goal of reducing the duration and frequency of very challenging and very destructive behaviors. “At Moss we have three-, four- and five-year-old [students]…Emotional regulation is not mastered yet; it takes years to build.

“We’re trying to look at different ways to reduce the frequency of outbursts and occasions and the duration of them,” he said. “There’s a lot of staff training we are doing and one of our team members had suggested a therapy dog.”

Cohen said when the suggestion was made last year, it brought a lot of concerns, including costs, can total approximately $9,000. “The initial costs is 60 percent of our budget,” he said, but “The Metuchen Education Foundation (MEF) was a good way to try to figure out a solution to fund a dog.”

MEF has offered a grant to cover the initial cost. He said the proposal is to allocate $800 in the Moss School budget, which would be a recurring annual cost, and the rest of the funds for ongoing costs would come from some student activity funds, which the school receives each year, and the other costs would be covered by the host family, which would be Cohen’s.

Board member Jonathan Lifton said it is premature to put $800 in the budget for an item that is not clear if the board policies would be amended to allow for a dog. Board President Justin Manley echoed the sentiments of Lifton.

Manley said the significant concerns include insurance, long-term maintenance, and acquisition of the dog: “This is not about the efficacy [of a therapy dog] because we recognize the value of it.”

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