My blog has been up for just over 2 months now and I've been getting many emails from family, friends and dedicated readers via social media sharing their feedback and personal experiences with me. I've had a couple of families who have reached out to me for support with their own children who have special needs, and I've decided to start a "Dear Abby..." column to share their voice in hopes to create a network of support. Thank you to this excited mother who has given me permission to post our conversation. I look forward to connecting and learning with more #MomBehindTheLabel readers out there!
* To respect the privacy of my readers, I will be keeping their identities anonymous.
DEAR MOM BEHIND THE LABEL:
I’ve been following you for a while on social media. Sorry for the “cold email”, but I have a question about Kadence and attending school, if you don’t mind... I leave in a couple weeks for training in Oakville for my 13yo’s autism guide dog. It will be a poodle, as well. :) I am really excited!
Our principal and SERT/staff are extremely supportive, but I’m wondering how challenging it will be to obtain approval for my son’s dog to attend school with him next year?
We are in an autism class. I know you are a teacher (amazing inclusive PE ideas, btw!), but I’m sure you still had some protocols to navigate. Our principal has said we need to show the dog is “essential”… She’s keen to make this happen (and has already begun the process), but I’d love any resources you have to share.
I understand this will be discussed in our training at Lions, as well.
-- SOON TO BE SERVICE DOG OWNER
HELLO SOON TO BE SERVICE DOG OWNER:
Glad we made the connection. You caught me at my computer so I can answer emails asap! Most school boards in Ontario have a service dog protocol. In the mean time check out Bill 80, The Ontario Service Dog Act https://www.ola.org/en/legislative-business/bills/parliament-41/session-2/bill-80 as it states:
“Service dogs permitted in places to which public admitted:
2. (1) No person, directly or indirectly, alone or with another, by himself, herself or itself or by the interposition of another, shall,
(a) deny to any person the accommodation, services or facilities available in a school or in any place to which the public is customarily admitted; or
(b) discriminate against any person with respect to the accommodation, services or facilities available in a school or in any place to which the public is customarily admitted, or the charges for the use of the accommodation, services or facilities, for the reason that he or she is a person with a disability who is accompanied by a service dog, or requires the accompaniment of a support person or the use of an assistive device to assist them with their service dog.”
Your child's principal is right. Your family, with the support of the Lions trainer will have to advocate that the dog is an accommodation to support your child's independence. Some school boards are more supportive than others for service dogs so my suggestion is to ask the SERT or principal if they can share the school board’s policy on service dogs so that you are properly informed.
Your Lions trainer is very experienced with the board protocols and will attend the meetings when the service dog is ready to transition into the school. It will be about a year before the dog can come to school because the dog and your child will have to create a bond. CONGRATS with getting the dog!!! It is such a long wait, but so so so worth it.
Hope this helps,
-- MOM BEHIND THE LABEL
HELLO MOM BEHIND THE LABEL:
Hi, just wanted to share a pic of our newest member of our family. :) We’ve been home for a week and we are settling in. Amazing experience at LF AAD training. Hope all is well as you wrap up the school year. Love the pic of Kadence at the zoo (via Twitter).
-- NEW SERVICE DOG OWNER
HELLO NEW SERVICE DOG OWNER:
This is so so amazing. Thank you so much for sharing the picture. It is truly a gift bringing the service dog home. I couldn't even explain the feeling I had when I saw Bella squeal when she first met Kadence. Good luck and enjoy your new 4-legged family member!
-- MOM BEHIND THE LABEL