With the increasing reliance on Service Dogs for students with disabilities, the presence of these specially-trained canines in educational settings is becoming more common. Service Dogs in schools provide numerous benefits for students with disabilities, from improved cognitive and motor skills to emotional support. However, their presence also introduces new challenges that must be assessed and managed through inclusive policies and clear guidelines.
The Benefits of Service Dogs in Schools
Service Dogs offer numerous benefits to students with disabilities, including mobility, sensory, and psychiatric conditions, and more.
- Enhanced Learning Opportunities and Personal Development
Service Dogs are trained to assist people with disabilities. For children with disabilities, these animals can facilitate enriched learning opportunities and personal growth. For example, they can help children with autism improve their social skills and communication abilities.
- Improved Cognitive and Motor Skills
Working with a Service Dog can stimulate students' cognitive and motor skills development, as documented in a study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
- Increased Independence
Service Dogs can help students with disabilities perform daily tasks they may otherwise struggle with, boosting their self-confidence and reliance. It also allows
for more autonomy in their school day and an increased sense of accomplishment.
- Additional Social and Emotional Support
Service Dogs provide emotional support and companionship, which can significantly reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. In an educational context, this emotional support can foster a more inclusive and comfortable learning environment for a student.
Challenges of Service Dogs in Schools
While the benefits of Service Dogs for children with disabilities are noteworthy, integrating them into schools can pose several challenges.
- Allergies and Phobias
Students or staff with dog allergies or cynophobia (fear of dogs) may be adversely affected by the presence of a Service Dog. Schools must balance the needs of all students and staff when considering the inclusion of Service Dogs.
- Disruption and Distractions
Although Service Dogs are trained to behave appropriately in public, their presence can cause distraction or disruption in a classroom setting. Schools can mitigate the issues by providing training for the school community, which can help people understand the role of a Service Dog and respect its working status.
- Accommodation and Accessibility
The inclusion of Service Dogs in classrooms poses logistical challenges. Schools must ensure their facilities are accessible and safe for Service Dogs. To accomplish this, schools must provide water sources and suitable areas for rest.
Policies Regarding Service Dogs in Schools
Various legal provisions and policies are related to using Service Dogs in Schools. These policies seek to balance the rights of the students using the Service Dog and the needs of the wider school community.
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Under the ADA, schools are required to modify their policies to permit the use of a Service Dog by a student with a disability.
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibits schools that receive federal funding from discriminating against students with disabilities. It includes the use of Service Dogs.
- The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
Under the IDEA, if a Service Dog is necessary for a child to receive Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), it should be allowed in school.
- State and Local Laws
In addition to federal laws, many states and local jurisdictions have laws and policies regarding Service Dogs in schools. Schools must comply with these laws, which vary greatly regarding specifics and requirements.
How To Obtain a Service Dog
Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities (ECAD) breed Service Dogs and train them as puppies. By the time they’re nine months, they know several commands. They then undergo extensive training for 18 to 24 months before they are matched with someone.
Each person's final training is individualized once a potential match has been identified. When a client arrives for team training, the dog has had up to 1,500 hours of training and socialization. If you or a loved one could benefit from a Service Dog, contact Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities to learn more or apply for a Service Dog.
Help Us Transform the Lives of People Living With Disabilities
Service Dogs can significantly impact the lives of people living with disabilities. From physical assistance to emotional support, they can provide the help needed to live independently and confidently. Having a Service Dog by your side means you can enjoy a better quality of life.
Everyone can take part in helping people with disabilities with Service Dogs. Support us with a donation, bequest, planned giving, contributions to our wish list, or create a fundraiser. Your support can change someone’s life.