School uses dogs to help autistic students in the classroom

The USA Therapy Dogs help the children learn social skills. / Brett Dickie

Two years ago, special education teachers at Central Elementary School in Flushing never dreamed they would see their autistic students walking a dog.

"The first time the dogs came in, it was utter chaos," said special education aide, Pam Weisenburger.

But now students are petting, feeding and even hugging their new friends Lelia and Brewtus. Children enter this classroom when they are six and leave when they are 12.

"Socialization is a big part of students with Autism. They don't socialize with other people very often and they tend to be very solitary, play by themselves," said teacher, Yevette Bentley.

Of the 8 students in the class, everyone has a different level of Autism, but that hardly matters to the USA Therapy Dogs.

Dogs are non judgmental. They don't judge the kids, they just love them," explained dog trainer Anisa Gordan.

And with these newly formed relationships, students are beginning to use their skills outside the classroom walls with people.

Then the families can take them out and they have fewer adverse reactions in the community and be more a part of the family socially and not staying home as much," said Bentley.

"When you work with children who have ASD you take every little improvement and celebrate it with every child because the smallest steps are huge steps for our students, said Jacqualine Mark.