Helping Students with Special Needs through Pet Therapy

By: | January 6, 2019
District Name: Henry Hudson Regional School
District State: New Jersey
District Website:

A dog in school every day is a good thing—especially for students with special needs in New Jersey.

Henry Hudson Regional School overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and serves students from grades 7 through 12. But many students had to be placed in private schools because of Henry Hudson’s limited resources for students with autism, Asperger’s syndrome and other behavioral needs.

Lenore Kingsmore, principal of Henry Hudson Regional School, decided a therapy dog could keep students in the school. She spearheaded the program with help from a special ed teacher and supervisor.

The students learn to care for Hudson, the therapy dog. And while such students often struggle with expressing feelings and emotions, research shows that animals can encourage students to communicate.

The district owns the certified service dog—it pays for his medical care, grooming and food. A teacher takes him home each night.

Hudson has changed the climate. Students feel more comfortable expressing their emotions and several boys have been mainstreamed into the general education population without an aide, Kingsmore says.

Hudson has even performed in two musicals—which has allowed several special needs students to perform on stage with him. Hudson is also credited for improving attendance, discipline, and even reading and math scores.