I just received this article from a friend. http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2014/02/03/parents_with_autistic_kids_fight_to_get_service_dogs_in_schools.html
The article is about families trying to get approval from Ontario schools to allow their Service dog to accompany their child to school. It says that “while federal law protects a blind person’s right to be accompanied in public by a service animal, the rights of children with autism who rely on trained dogs to keep them safe, regulate unruly behaviour and help them develop socially are not so clear.” For those of you who do not know my son Jacob is currently on a waiting list with Lions Foundation of Canada. After our extensive application process and our August home visit, In October we received our Letter approving Jacob for a Service Dog, and that we would be contacted when an appropriate dog was ready.
My assumption is that the only reason that someone would disagree with a childs right to be accompanied by their service animal is because they lack knowledge and understanding for what the dog will do for the child. It is obvious why a service animal is needed for a blind or hearing impaired person but the most common reaction I get when I tell people about our service dog is “So what will the dog do?” This is a legitimate question and I take no offence when asked this question. So I will share some information about What I know about Autism Service dogs and how our dog will help Jacob.
An Autism service dog is extensively trained until the dog is about 2 years old at that time, if they pass their test, they are matched to an appropriate person. Jason and I will go for a 10 day training course in Oakville, ON, where we will be taught how to command and take care of the dog (we will be the handler of the dog not Jacob).
Our dog will be trained to do certain things that will help Jacob
1. Anytime Jacob leaves the house he will be tethered to the dog. Jacob currently runs away very easily. Even going to the park by our house is difficult as I don’t know if or when he is going to run away. When tethered to the dog I will be able to stop Jacob by giving commands to the dog. Jacob will learn how to correctly respond to my requests by following the dog.
2. Jacob benefits from Deep pressure. Right now I need to do deep pressure relaxation excersizes with him constantly through out the day and every night before bed. Majority of nights Jacob can’t even stop his body moving enough to fall asleep so Jason or I provide pressure on him until he is calm enough to fall asleep. Jacob’s dog will be trained to provide deep pressure for him. His dog will be with him all the time. He will lean against him giving him that little bit of extra resistance which will allow Jacob to remain calm. At night his dog will sleep with him and will be able to put pressure on him so he will remain asleep though out the night.
3. Jacob struggles with transitions. He really struggles going from one task to another or from one place to another. Any change causes him to have anxiety and to lash out at people or himself. All transitions throughout that day add to Jacobs anxiety and if he is not regulated properly he will get upset and have a meltdown, and no longer be able to learn.The dog will create stability. (This is when bringing the dog to school is really important). Jacob will have something that no matter where he goes or who he is with his dog will be the same. It gives him a companion that will always be there for him.
4. When Jacob gets upset I currently need to restrain him so he doesn’t hurt anyone, including himself. The dog will be trained to sense when he starts getting upset and the dog will lie on him restraining his arms.
5. Jacobs dog will also help with his social skills. When we are at the store or meeting new people, Jacob has a tendency to yell at people or tell them to get away from him. The dog helps create a barrier. Instead of putting Jacob on the spot to answer a question that he doesn’t know how to answer (even a question like “How are you today”) most questions will be directed to his dog. He will be able to learn how to communicate properly with people.
There are so many other benefits of Autisim service dogs. I hope people will start to understand the benefits and how a service dog for an autistic child is as beneficial as one for a blind person. I am very excited to receive our dog but I am nervous to have to advocate everywhere. I am understanding that there are many people with allergies to dogs or other cultural issues, however we also need to understand that with out the help of the dog the child in question may not be able to function properly and in turn will not receive proper education. I have my meeting with Jacob’s future principal on Friday. I will let you all know how it goes. Hopefully we will be able to send Jacob’s dog to school with him.
If you have more questions about autistic service dogs This is the company we are getting our dog from. It also has a spot for you to donate to the program so they can continue providing dogs to needy families. http://www.dogguides.com/about.html