“An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.” ― Martin Buber
Some people say compassion is innate. Some say, it is developed.
Compassion is a feeling. We all have our own definitions of ‘compassion’. It is always this fight within that empowers us to come face to face with our own selves. We all strive to be a better version of ourselves everyday. There’s a child within all of us that wants to break all barriers, optimise its learning curve, paint its experiences on a vast canvas, but the fear of being judged holds us back from sharing our stories in a dynamic way. It makes us self-conscious of our choices, and we end up limiting our potential flight of ideas.
Yes, talking about inclusive classrooms, how many of us are accepting of our children, and are really aware of and value their capabilities? Do we really give them an opportunity to channelise their energy in a way that can expand their modes of expression? It is important to recognise that not everyone starts at the same place, and not everyone has the same needs – eg, a classroom made up of students with different learning styles. Audre Lorde once said, ‘It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognise, accept and celebrate those differences.’ (Sun, 2014)
Animal Assisted Activities are one of the programs that can be implemented in schools as they aid in boosting the child’s self-esteem and help in strengthening social bonds. These activities help in building motivation levels in children and this in turn stimulates them to exhibit their full potential.
At Ishanya India Foundation which is a centre for Individuals with Special Needs, we have Animal Assisted Activities (AAA) every month. These sessions are facilitated by Mr. Karthik Ramasubramanian, who is a well-known Canine Behaviourist and an Internationally Certified Dog Trainer (The Northern Centre for Canine Behaviour, UK) and an Entrepreneur, along with his dog, Cleo. Karthik is also the recipient of the ‘Most Inspiring Dog Trainer’ award by Canines Can Care for his passion and work in the field of dog training. He has conducted many workshops on pet parenting, dog training, Animal Assisted Therapy, etc. He runs the Urban Pet, which is a one-stop destination for all pet care needs. Cleo and Karthik visit many schools, education centres, geriatric centres, corporate companies, etc to facilitate Animal Assisted Activities and conduct awareness drives.
It’s endearing to see the excitement on these kids’ faces when this amazing duo, Cleo and Karthik Sir, as he is fondly called by the students, visit Ishanya. They eagerly look forward to it. Karthik has been a dynamic mentor to the students and weaves these sessions beautifully. They engage in a lot of fun activities and this makes them more independent, they learn how to behave around animals, observe their behaviour, they also learn to give the dog basic commands which aids in speech and develops a sense of initiative. Activities that involve appropriate ways of bonding with dogs, body language, feeding the dog, walking and petting the dog, grooming, playing fetch enhance fine and gross motor skills like throwing the ball or toy; it allows the kids to express themselves without any inhibitions in this environment.This helps in reducing aggression and calming them down. It helps them build their communication skills, improve their attention, boost their self-confidence, and contributes to sustained learning. It also promotes team-building skills. The environment becomes lively. They love to have Cleo around and shower her with lots of love. They gradually attempt to become accommodative and sensitive to others’ needs.
Animal Assisted Activities (AAA) can be incorporated in the curricula of schools to optimise the learning curve of kids as they are a meaningful source of recreation and can serve as a foundation in building life skills. The kids will grow up to become more empathetic individuals and also learn to speak the language of compassion.
“Animals are such agreeable friends ― they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.” ― George Eliot
Sun, A. (2014, September 25). Equality Is Not Enough: What the Classroom Has Taught Me About Justice. Retrieved from https://everydayfeminism.com/2014/09/equality-is-not-enough/.