In recent years service dogs for children with autism have become a valuable resource for the autistic community and have been proven to significantly decrease cases of wandering, and increase a child’s social interaction.
Autism daily Newscast reported on the benefits of Service dogs to a child with autism on February 1.
There is a growing number of children and young adults who benefit from having a specially trained dog, but it seems that public buildings and educational centres are lacking in a general consensus as to allowing an autistic child to have their confidante accompany them at all times.
Other service users, such as guide dogs for the blind, and deaf, are legally entitled to have their service dogs with them at all times. Not so autistic children.
In the UK, guide dogs for the blind and deaf are permitted to enter schools, libraries and travel on buses with their owners. Federal law is very similar in the USA.
An article in The Star, on Febuary 3, highlights the plight of parents of autistic children in Canada, as they fight for equal rights for their children in classrooms across Canada.
According to the Star, the school boards across the province are wildly inconsistent when it comes to policy over autism service dogs.
A South Carolina mother, Eva Heisch cliamed her four year old daughter Eva turned away from school repeatedly in September of last year (reported by the Mail Online) because she had taken her service dog to school. Local news station WLTX reported that a psychiatrist’s written statement said she ‘requires’ a service dog and must be ‘tethered’ to it as part of her treatment.
It seems that there is little or no consensus to the growing number of autism service dogs, and their child’s equal rights worldwide. If you have any experiences, please comment below, or email firstname.lastname@example.org with your experiences.
While public schools and businesses fall under different titles in the ADA, it has already been established that a business does not have to supply one with anything for the dog. By that same train of thought, I strongly feel schools should not be forced to bear the burdon of responsibility or to spend my tax dollars hiring and training aides as handlers for service dogs that require an adult handler.
If the family is happy to send along somebody to handle the dog at all times then fine but the school should most definitely not be required to provide a handler. The other issue is that, at least here in Australia, the special schools are divided up into numerous yards and there are gates everywhere, the students have plenty of staff around and quite frankly I have found that the dog simply isn’t needed at school for my son.
Since tethering children to dogs is dangerous, I can certainly understand why schools would not want autistic students tethered to dogs at school. If a service dog is trained to perform tasks that help an autistic student (being tethered to a kid isn’t a task and doesn’t require training), then the dog should be allowed at school provided the student is capable of caring for the dog. The school should not be required to provide a caretaker for the dog.