WHEN Angus walks into Winterfold Primary School, the excitement level among the students is palpable.
Despite being a school-wide favourite, he holds a special place in the hearts and lives of two young boys.
As a trained companion dog, Angus and his handler Kay Whiteley visit the school on Fridays to work alongside Aidan Mulchrone, who has Down syndrome, and autistic student Georgie Reppas.
With both boys experiencing communication difficulties, education assistant Janette Griffith said the change in the students since the visits began in mid-2016 was noticeable.
Ms Whiteley said a companion dog like Angus was so effective because he provided no pressure for them to communicate, which often helped the students to talk more freely.
“He lies by them and doesn’t ask anything of them, he just accepts them as they are and loves them and he has really connected with them both over the two terms,” she said.
“They often talk to and about Angus and things they have done together in situations where they didn’t speak before.
“Gus is trained to obey hand signals, so when the boys attempt a ‘sit’ command or call his name he responds quickly and this gives the boys confidence that their speech is effective, meaningful and understood, which means they are more willing to attempt talking again.
“I feel so blessed, I always leave Winterfold on an absolute high and each week I see development and growth it makes my heart happy to know that these two beautiful young men are being impacted so hugely by something me and Gus do.”
Angus’s visits were made possible through the More Support for Students with Disabilities initiative, but funding has run out and the school is looking for community support and donations.
Contact Winterfold PS on 9337 2936 if you can help.