Tuesday, September 21, 2010

In Canada, service dog helps boy with Down syndrome but isn't allowed to go to school with him

From Global Winnipeg in Canada:

In Canada, trained service dogs are only available for visually impaired or autistic children.

Hart, the black lab, came from Kansas; making nine year old Sam (pictured) the first "known" Canadian with down syndrome to ever use an animal assistant.

“He's far more aware, far less quiet, more interactive with his siblings and people that he meets,” says Sam’s mom, Joanne Wilkinson.

But Sam won't be allowed to bring Hart to his grade four class in Brandon, until school staff are trained and issues around allergies are ironed out. So Sam is being home schooled.

“It's not so much the issue of the needs around the child as it is to determine whether or not the animal that we are going to have in the school meet the standards,” explained Dr. Donna Michaels of the Brandon School Division.

Because Hart isn't a Canadian trained dog, his skills will be assessed by Manitoba Search and Rescue officials, who have also volunteered to train school staff next week.

The process has been further complicated with no provincial legislation or regulation in place for guide dogs in schools.

Joanne has filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.

Within a few months his family will be moving south to Ohio.

They just hope their struggles will help guide the way for other children with disabilities.