Sunday, August 17, 2014

Do All Kids with Disabilities Need Service Dogs?

Well, no.  Of course not.

But it seems like every day I read more news stories about families raising money for service dogs for their kids, asking the public for donations.

Like this story.  A family wants to raise money for a service dog for a three-year-old boy with multiple disabilities, including a muscular disorder, a feeding disorder and a seizure disorder. 

The boy is nonverbal and hits himself when he gets upset.  Um, what is going to keep him from hitting a dog when he is upset?  Most service dog organizations won't place a service dog with someone that regularly harms himself, especially not someone that is nonverbal and hasn't learned other coping skills.  But the particular organization this family plans to get a dog from apparently will place a dog with anyone that comes up with the money.  I guess it's just too bad for the dog if he gets hurt.

The boy has been diagnosed with a seizure disorder but hasn't had a seizure in a year.  So does he really need a seizure response dog?  The family says they want a dog that can alert a family member when (or if) he has another seizure.  But this child has a home health nurse with him for 20 hours a day, five days a week.  So why can't the nurse alert a family member if he has a seizure?

They also want to tether him to the dog so he doesn't wander off and get lost.  Well, tethering kids to dogs is very dangerous, as I've discussed before.  But also.  He is three!  He should not be without adult supervision, at all.  Even a non-disabled three-year-old should not be without adult supervision.  So why would you need to tether him to anything?  Can't an adult (like the nurses that are with him 100 hours a week, for instance?) keen an eye on him?  Can't an adult hold his hand?  Or, if the family really wants to tether him to something, how about a responsible adult?  Which would be much, much safer than tethering him to a dog.

I know firsthand how helpful service dogs can be.  But they aren't helpful or necessary for everyone with a disability, especially small children.

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