The counseling services being provided to students at Nixa’s Century Elementary are entering a new orbit because of a new addition this year.
Orbit, a therapy dog, joined the school this year to help with school-wide counseling.
“It’s unbelievable the impact he’s has in [a] short amount of time,” Century Elementary School Counselor Tina Russell said. “I am able to use him in individual counseling and in small group counseling.”
Orbit has been given the same level of training as any service dog given to an individual.
“He listens and he’s really comfortable and soft,” second grader Hudson Geary said about Orbit in a YouTube clip. “He makes me feel calm and supported. It’s just comfortable somehow. I can’t tell exactly why.”
The students write letters to Orbit and place them in a special doggie mailbox outside the counselor’s office. Russell said the letters to Orbit have allowed them to learn needs of students in a new way.
“We have noticed that students will say things to Orbit through the mail that they would have never said to their teacher, sometimes their parent,” Russell said.
The counseling staff write letters back in Orbit’s name that the dog delivers once a week to teachers.
The staff also has seen breakthroughs in special education classes because of the dog. One special needs student who had been basically non-verbal spoke three words in a row for the first time because of working with Orbit.
Russell admitted that Orbit can fall asleep in class while she’s talking but it’s made him more adorable to the kids who laugh when he starts snoring.
Sponsorship for Orbit comes mainly from Nixa Animal Hospital.
Russell said the addition of Orbit has far exceeded her and the school’s expectations.
“It’s like watching a dream come to fruition being bigger and better than I could have ever imagined,” Russell said.