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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Service Dogs

The politics of autism involves a broad and diverse array of issues, many of which one might not expect. One such issue is that of service animals. A previous post touched on the issue. WAFF reports on a case in Alabama:

A Shoals school district has once again changed its mind on providing a handler for a service dog for an autistic student. The family of the student is now taking legal action.

The Tuscumbia School Board voted in August, to allow Hudson Kendrick, to bring his service dog to Deshler Middle School. Hudson suffers from autism and the dog helps him with even the simplest tasks. A month into school and the Kendrick family finds themselves in the middle of a fight again.

Joel and Lisa Kendrick say after getting the 'ok' for their service dog "Lorelei" to assist their son in the classroom, the school is now flip flopping on the agreement. They claim the district told them the animal is not a service dog and the only way she'll be allowed on campus is if one of them stays in the classroom.

"It seems to me like they should make some special considerations for this kid," said a fellow parent. "This kid needs help."

"It's not a matter of clear cut law," said Florence attorney Vickie Willard. Willard is a former special education coordinator in Alabama. "Until there's a ruling by an administrative law judge, there may not be a final answer. This may be a case that has to be litigated at some point, not only for this child, but for other children with disabilities as well," said Willard.

The Kendrick's have hired an attorney out of Birmingham to help. They say other parents and students have been fully supportive of Lorelei and that they only have the best intentions for their child at heart.

WAAY reports on another case in the same state:

When you walk through the doors at Somerville Road Elementary School in Decatur, you may see a cardboard cutout of Puah an autism service dog.

For the last three years, Puah has been attending school with 11-year old Brayden Ellis.

"They were very supportive and i'm very grateful for that because they had a choice to make, they could either support the child or they could fight this and they chose Brayden," said Brayden's mom, Wendy Ellis. "It's a tool to work with just like a child has a wheel chair or a child has glasses. Brayden has her dog, and that helps her get through the day. Just like someone needs their glasses to read, Brayden needs her dog to calm her."

Ellis said children with autism have already given up so much and don't get to do many of the things other kids their age enjoy doing.

"For example, Brayden has never gone to a slumber party and the other day she called me in and said she wanted to have a slumber party. So I went in, and she had her toys and sleeping bags and she had a sleeping bag laid out for Puah because Puah is her friend," said Ellis.

The Ellis' have never been told they couldn't bring Puah anywhere. The dog has been in doctor's offices, restaurants, even Disney World with the family!

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