State schools

Schools in Tri-State Call on a Furry Friend to Help Students with Disabilities

MADEIRA, Ohio (WXIX) – A four-legged friend walks the halls of several schools across the tri-state to help students in need.

Melissa O’Cull is a physiotherapist who works with the service dog, Parma. Together, the two assist students with disabilities in the Indian Hills, Madeira and Mariemont school districts with a service dog from Canine Companions.

“Parma has been with me for about four years and he helps me in different ways,” O’Cull explained. “We work on balance activities, we do mobility tasks and we also do fun ball games that involve Parma.”

O’Cull arranges one-on-one sessions with students or small groups of students with similar therapeutic needs and Parma does its part to help during these physical therapy sessions.

“The mere fact that Parma is part of these sessions – [students] work harder, they work longer and it’s just a lot more fun when you have a four-legged friend involved,” O’Cull said. “Recently I had a student who was working on improving her balance and she is very nervous about trying things that are difficult for her because she is afraid of losing her balance and falling. Once I involve Parma in the activity, she is ready to try because she knows that when she throws the ball, Parma will bring it back to her.

Parma is popular at these schools, but there will be another upcoming service dog, Pindell, whom O’Cull breeds.

Canine Companions is an organization that not only provides service dogs to children with disabilities, but also veterans and adults with disabilities across the country.

To learn more about canine companions, you can visit their website.

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