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PHOENIX, AZ, April 11, 2022

Phoenix Day School for the Deaf (PDSD), the Phoenix campus of Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind, is excited to continue growing their partnership with Pawsitive Friendships.

Tosha Tharp-Gaitanis founded Pawsitive Friendships after working with her own child diagnosed with high functioning autism/Asperger’s Syndrome and their family dog. Pawsitive Friendships provides animal-assisted therapy as an integral part of a goal-oriented treatment plan for those with special needs. Its school-based program works with teachers to help the students work on their Individualized Education Program goals in small groups. Aided by the gentle and unconditional love of highly trained animals, Pawsitive Friendships helps students improve physically, socially, and emotionally, as well as other areas of self-regulation and motivation.

Pawsitive Friendships began its eight-week pilot program serving PDSD’s kindergarten classes on March 18 and will continue through May 6. Students have responded well to working with canine friends Jacques, Evelyn, and Scout, with a focus on social skills, taking turns, following directions, and self-regulation. On Friday, April 8, kindergartners met miniature horse Bella. As a special addition to the regular program, on Friday, April 15, Jacques the French bulldog will visit the first grade classrooms and all Life Skills classes on campus.

Pawsitive Friendships has 95 therapy teams in Maricopa County and is looking for more so as to serve more schools and classes simultaneously. Those interested in being part of therapy teams can contact Tosha at


The Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind (ASDB) was founded in 1912 – the year of Arizona’s statehood. ASDB serves over 2,000 children who are blind, visually impaired, deaf, hard of hearing or deafblind from birth to grade 12. ASDB operates two schools for the deaf and one school for the blind, as well as serving students in itinerant settings in the public schools of Arizona. ASDB is dedicated to empowering students with the educational opportunities necessary to succeed in college, career, and life.