Tri-State schools enlist help of furry friend to help students with disabilities

Tri-State schools enlist help of furry friend to help students with disabilities
Published: Oct. 5, 2022 at 4:54 PM EDT

MADEIRA, Ohio (WXIX) - A four-legged friend is walking the halls of several Tri-State schools helping students in need.

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

“Parma has been with me for about the last four years and he helps me in a variety of 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 does private one-on-one sessions with students or small groups of students with similar therapy needs and Parma does his part to help out in these physical therapy sessions.

“Just having Parma be a part of those sessions - [students] work harder, they work longer and it’s just a lot more fun when you have a furry friend involved,” said O’Cull. “Recently, I had a student who was working on improving her balance and she’s very nervous to try things that are challenging for her because she’s afraid she may lose her balance and fall. Once I involve Parma in the activity, she’s willing to try it because she knows that when she throws the ball, Parma is going to bring it back to her.”

Parma is popular at these schools, but there will be another service dog to come, Pindell, who O’Cull is puppy-raising.

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

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

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