Every once in a while I hear about something happening that is not right. I just heard about this and the story makes me very angry. It takes a lot to make me angry and this story sure does!
Do you know about autism? Well, I do. The exact definition from the Encarta Dictionary is, “Autism is a disturbance in psychological development in which use of language, reaction to stimuli, interpretation of the world, and the formation of relationships are not fully established and follow unusual patterns.”
Remember my words from the last chapter of The “Tail” of Rugby Jones: A Rascal’s Journey from Disability to Ability? “…you have to find something to help you…Ask the people who love you if they can find something that will help you too…Maybe you can’t see with your eyes very well or maybe you are bigger or smaller than the other kids… Maybe your arms or legs don’t work very well or maybe your hearing isn’t very good…You might need something like Zoomie to help you work hard and remind you to believe in yourself…I want everyone to understand that we are all very special and life can be great even if we are different. I want you to believe that too! And don’t you ever forget it!”
Well, this is a story of a boy in Oregon named Scooter who is different because he has autism. His parents and friends got him what he needed. What he needed was a dog because he helps him the way Zoomie helps me. His dog is named Madison and he helps keep Scooter from getting anxious.
Madison knows how to do exactly what Scooter needs to keep calm. Madison is a trained autism service dog but guess what? The Hillsboro School District in Oregon said that Madison was not necessary for Scooter’s educational progress at school even though every day, Scooter tries to hit his third-grade classmates and instructors because he gets anxious.
Therapy animals are not covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act even though they are getting more popular. They are even used in hospitals to comfort patients and in some schools. The training is not as extensive as it is for a service animal.
The Americans With Disabilities Act describes a service animal as “any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items.”
Well this school district says “No” to Madison being with Scooter in school and that is just wrong! It’s like telling a blind person that a seeing eye dog is banned and all that is needed is a white cane. That is why I am so angry. We need to help change old rules because new rules are needed for all kinds of kids who are different and need help.
After all, trained service dogs are good enough to find bombs and go to war but Hillsborough School District says not good enough to help an autistic boy feel more secure in school. Don’t you agree?
Photo by _Lisa_