The Child and Youth Studies professor and her team have been working with teachers, parents and children at the St. David’s school collecting data since September.“As child educators, we see the value of being involved with this kind of research at our school,” says Tammy Chilcott, principal of St. David’s Public School.“We’re pleased to be a community partner on this initiative that will help us to better understand the social and emotional development of our children, along with the value of special supports we put in place to strengthen learning,” says Chilcott. “We believe that nurturing the social and emotional development of children makes them more ready to meet diverse learning challenges each day.”Researchers have collected pre-test baseline reading level scores and social-emotional outcome measures – like shyness and social preference – as well as empathy measures and data on the children’s attitudes toward and treatment of animals. Every week since then they’ve collected observational data of the children reading with the dogs to capture overall reading enjoyment and confidence levels.Thanks to the co-operation of parents, researchers have also been able to embed a comparison group into their project. Another group of children will begin reading to the dogs this month so researchers will be able to compare this group’s pre-test results to data from the group of children who have been working with the dogs since September.“A group of parents were generous enough to say that, ‘it’s ok if my children take part in the study now, but do not start actually reading to the dogs until January for the sake of strengthening the research study,” says Tardif-Williams.“When we look at previous programs in the literature it’s really hard to get a comparison group, so that’s the really exciting thing about this project,” she says. “This is something happening in the community that will have a significant impact on our understanding of children’s relationships with animals and the connection with children’s social and emotional development.”Researchers will begin collecting post-test data and crunching the information they’ve already collected later this term. Once the analysis is completed Tardif-Williams will take a full-year sabbatical to write up her findings.This research collaboration between Tardif-Williams, the District School Board of Niagara and Therapy Tails Ontario also includes Sandra Bosacki, a professor with Brock’s Faculty of Education, graduate student Chilise Jones-Cowser and research assistant Breanna Elliotson. Child from St. David’s Public School interacts with his “dog buddy” while taking part in a reading activity at the schoolThanks to community support from a local Niagara school board and dog therapy program, a Brock University professor is researching the role that animals play in promoting basic social and emotional competencies in children.The project, led by developmental psychologist Christine Tardif-Williams, is looking at children from St. David’s Public School who have been taking part in a “reading buddy” program offered by Therapy Tails Ontario, a non-profit group from Welland, Ont.Every week Grade 1 and 2 students at the school are paired with a dog that they interact with and read to for about 20 minutes. The goal of the activity is to help develop a companion animal bond for the children in the context of a reading activity.But Tardif-Williams’ research is about more than just observing children reading to a “dog buddy.”“The research suggests that companion animals can serve as a social lubricant for shy children,” she says. “So the question we’re examining focuses on the impact of pairing children with a dog ‘reading buddy’ over the course of a year.”“To what extent does this experience with the animals promote reading enjoyment and confidence and more empathic and prosocial responses toward both companion animals and peers following the program?”
THE HEAVIEST SNOW in decades in Tokyo and other areas of Japan has left at least 11 dead and more than 1,200 injured across the country, reports said today.As much as 27 centimetres of snow was recorded in Tokyo by late yesterday, the heaviest fall in the capital for 45 years, according to meteorologists.The storm hit Tokyo on the eve of its gubernatorial election.Observers said the weather may affect voter turnout in the city of 13 million people. As of 6pm turnout was down more than 10 percentage points from a previous poll during the last mayoral election. The government-backed candidate Yoichi Masuzoe was today announced the winner.People walk against blowing snow in Tokyo today (Image: Koji Sasahara/AP/PA).As a depression moved along the Pacific coast yesterday, the northeastern city of Sendai saw 35 centimetres of snow, the heaviest in 78 years.Local media said at least 11 people have been killed with one person also in critical condition in snow-linked accidents – mostly crashes after their cars skidded on icy roads.In central Aichi prefecture, a 50-year-old man died after his car slipped on the icy road and rammed into an advertisement steel pole, a local rescuer said.Public broadcaster NHK reported at least 1,253 people were injured across the nation, many of whom had slipped on the ground or fallen while shovelling the snow off their roofs.A child holds a ball of snow near a half buried motorcycle in Yokohama, near Tokyo (Image: Junji Kurokawa/AP/PA).More than 20,000 households were without electricity early today while airlines cancelled more than 400 domestic flights a day after over 740 flights were grounded.Nearly 5,000 people were stranded at Narita airport Saturday as traffic linking the airport to the capital was disrupted, NHK said.Further snowfall is expected today in the northern part of the country, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.- © AFP 2014.Read: Runner suffers utterly mortifying fate on live TV report>Your pics: Yep, it’s snowing in parts of Ireland>
RECENT EVENTS HAVE highlighted the inability of a largely monolithic and unrepresentative legislature to take decisions that are in the interest of people who are other than them. The overwhelmingly white, male Dáil, with its members predominantly selected from a narrow spectrum of dynastic families and professions, has proven itself to be incapable of acting justly toward all those historically excluded and marginalised. We have witnessed spectacular political blunders and injustices, for instance, in the handling of the Savita Halappanavar death and subsequent establishment of inquiries; in the refusal to introduce abortion legislation as mandated by the Irish people; in the treatment of Magdalene survivors; and in economic policy measures disproportionately disadvantaging women.While individual representatives sometimes try to constructively deal with issues predominantly affecting women, it is doubtful whether political institutions so explicitly eschewing diversity can adequately deal with such issues. Thankfully, as research from other jurisdictions shows, we can be hopeful that this may change somewhat in the future, given the introduction of gender quotas at the next general election.‘We accept systemic poverty in our society’What of those marginalised groups, though, who have been historically disadvantaged owing to other factors, such as race, ethnicity, or class? Incidences of racial hate crimes are rarely treated as a political priority, and we accept, as a matter of course, systemic economic inequality and poverty in our society. Added to this is the fact that people often have complex identities, which means they may be subject to multiple, perhaps reinforcing, disadvantages. The sociologist, Patricia Hill Collins, describes such people as being subject to “interlocking systems of oppression”, as their lives are marked by “intersectionality”, that is, they are disadvantaged by virtue of their gender, race, and class, for instance.Examples of the negative impact of intersectionality and mutually reinforcing oppressive structures are easy to find in Ireland. The issue of abortion, for example, is instructive. Many women who need abortions are unable to travel to the UK due to immigration or asylum status, meaning that race/ethnicity and gender intersect in ways that distinctly disadvantage migrant women, ultimately resulting in a denial of their reproductive rights. Similarly, there is ample evidence to suggest that people who were placed in Magdalene institutions were put there because they were poor. The ideology of ‘fallen women’, coupled with a disdain for poor people, thus resulted in women, and in some instances girls, being incarcerated by virtue of their gender and their class.A homogenous legislature has not served us wellWhen understood like this, it becomes clear that intersectionality can be a powerful tool in drawing out the complexities involved in injustices committed against people who have been and continue to be marginalised. It is essential that political decisions are made with regard to such complexities. What better way to do so than by actually including those people in political decision-making, whose lived experience is intersectional, and who therefore have first-hand knowledge of the many ways in which disadvantage functions with regard to gender, race, or class, for instance?As the examples of abortion and the containment of women in Magdalene laundries highlight, a homogenous legislature has not served us well, given that we are living with the legacies of injustices committed for several decades. If we wish to not repeat the mistakes of the past, then we need to include historically marginalised populations in political decision-making, paying particular attention to intersectionality, and the specific inequalities and injustices that can arise there from. As a country coming to terms with widespread, systemic injustices committed against young people, women, working class people, and the various intersectional identities of these and many others, we must ensure that diversity takes centre-stage in the political institutions and processes governing our lives.Prof Patricia Hill Collins will be speaking on intersectionality and social justice in a public lecture organised by UCD Women’s Studies on 20 March. Dr Clara Fischer is a co-ordinator of the Irish Feminist Network.