Monday, January 18, 2010

Dogs and Children with Autism

School Says Autistic Boy Can't Bring Dog to Class

As many of you know, one of my passions is to facilitate therapeutic exercises between dogs and children with autism. We founded Paws Making PALS (Positive Achievements Learning and Sharing) last year, which is currently being implemented at the Magnolia School by Cheryl Hite-Scherer.

Paws Making PALS has completely changed the lives of these kids, and more so even the teachers. I can not imagine turning down these types of programs in school systems, such as the Elementary school in this article:

(Jan. 12) -- An Oregon elementary school says that a 9-year-old boy with autism may not bring his service dog to class, despite its apparent calming effect on the child.

Third-grader Scooter Givens of Hillsboro, Ore., is given to violent outbursts against teachers and students at Patterson Elementary nearly every school day, according to The Oregonian newspaper.

Scooter's outbursts are difficult to predict and control. After researching a variety of options, Scooter's parents, Eric and Wendy Givens, paid $13,000 for a German shepherd trained specifically to help autistic children. The couple told The Oregonian that the dog, named Madison, has been able to calm their son.

"It makes Scooter easier to teach," Wendy Givens said. Specifically, when Scooter experiences one of his meltdowns, the dog, who is often tethered to Scooter's waist, places a paw upon the boy. If that doesn't work, Madison will calm him by lying on top of him, Wendy Givens told the newspaper.

"Sometimes they just need that squeeze that calms them down," Patty Lawrence, a special education facilitator told The Oregonian.

But officials at the Hillsboro School District are not convinced that allowing animals in the classroom is the right approach. Using trained dogs to help autistic students at school is not a common practice in Oregon, the paper found.

As a result of the district's refusal to allow Scooter to bring Madison to class, a complaint by Disability Rights Oregon has been filed with the U.S. Department of Justice.

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