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Autism Service Dogs

April 6, 2010

CNN has a great story about a mother who wanted a service dog for her autistic twins.  In her case, she decided to start with a puppy and have it trained locally.

“When McMillan asked the trainer whether she was able to train a dog to assist with her autistic twin boys, the dog trainer said, “I don’t know anything about autism.”

The mother did. And Kelli Collins knew how to train dogs. Together, they would train and raise a puppy to be a companion to the then-3-year-olds, Eric and James. Collins would work with the puppy, Caleb, on learning the boys’ scent so he could find them when they bolted. He soon would learn to comfort them, almost instinctively, when they needed a friend.”

A lot of people think that one has to go to a recognized service dog training organization to get a service dog.  That is not the case.  In fact, the US Department of Justice has never imposed any type of formal training requirements or certification process.  The only training requirement is be individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.

FOLLOW-UP

The American Bar Association has an article about Service Dogs in schools.   At the moment, it seems to be up to the individual school district whether or not Service Dogs will be allowed to accompany their children to school.  Some schools say yes and others are saying no.  The article covers several lawsuits which have resulted from districts which have refused to allow service dogs.

The courts are being asked to balance the school districts arguments:

“We don’t feel that the law is clear,” says superintendent Steven Poznic, adding that the district is concerned about both safety issues and classroom distraction. “It’s potentially disruptive for us. … We don’t feel that it was necessary for the student to be successful.”

Against the needs of the individual children:

“The Kalbfleisches argue that the service dog “refocuses and redirects [the boy’s] attention to the task at hand,” that Carter “had a history of bolting and running off without being aware of the surroundings,” and that, overall, “he’s shown a lot of improvement,”


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