For Children

We focus our efforts towards children in the following areas:


Early Learning Center Mobility Project

Chip & Will at ELC

Working one-on-one with a physical therapist, our teams provide motivation for extended movement, distraction from difficult exercises, and fun for the children who are working so hard to learn to walk or use their motorized devices.

PAWS teams have been working with the preschoolers at the Early Learning Center in Newark, Delaware since the fall of 2008.  In the spring of 2009, however, we have added work with Cole Galloway’s Mobility Project, which utilizes our therapy companions’ skills in working with children who are not independently mobile.

Required: PAWS Basic Training, Advanced Level STEX, PAWS recommendation


Children with Special Needs

PAWS teams visit many units in the hospital and always spend as long as needed with our littlest patients. The dogs follow the directives of the on-site professionals but the furry friend who visits weekly encourages, motivates, and makes difficult tasks a bit more bearable.

Our facilities include Sterk School for the Deaf, University of DE Early Learning Center, Exceptional Care for Children in hospitals, Nurses n’ Kids, and High Roads School.

Special needs range from learning differences to physical disabilities that make it impossible for a child to succeed in a traditional school environment. Approximately 30% of the children at ELC live in poverty and 10% live in foster care.

Required: PAWS Basic Training, Advanced Level STEX

Lead by Director of Team & Volunteer Development, Cassie Gonce


Autism Initiative

Autism Initiative is a pet therapy program geared towards working with children who have autism. This program currently takes place at Brennen School, Claymont Elementary School, McVey Elementary School, PS DuPont Middle School, and Gallaher Elementary School.

Autism is a spectrum disorder that affects children uniquely, so each child is approached differently. PAWS teams work with the on-site instructors and therapists to address the goals of each child’s IEP. For children, ages 4-10, who have difficulty relating to humans, interaction with animals is the perfect half-step for learning to connect with others. Petting or grooming dogs satisfies the child’s need for repetitive action in a socially acceptable way, and the dog responds to the child without requiring socially-mandated behaviors such as words, smiles or handshakes and hugs. A bond forms between the therapy dog and child and allows the child to become more self-assured and curious about his/her surroundings. Eventually, the child begins to reach out to people with less trepidation.

This program is funded by a grant from the Delaware Foundation for Reaching Citizens with Intellectual Disabilities (DFRC).

Requirements: PAWS Basic Training, Advanced Level STEX, 6 hour Autism Training.


PAWS for Reading


Children read individually to trained therapy pets in order to improve reading and communication skills. We visit schools, libraries, and other setttings where kids can feel comfortable and confident — and have fun!

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