When it comes to raising a child with autism, sometimes you’re willing to try anything that might help your child to succeed in school and have the help that he or she needs. One mother in Villa Grove, Illinois was at the end of her ropes with her son who deals with autism. Her son, seven-year-old Kaleb, was hard to deal with. He wasn’t cooperative in getting ready for school and would have tantrums. The morning routine would often involve screaming, resisting getting dressed, and chasing him around the house. While at school, sometimes he would just wander off.
Then the family purchased a specially trained dog (a Labrador retriever), Chewey, who was trained to help those with disabilities. The dog did not come cheap, however. In fact, it cost the family about $13,000. Was it worth it? Kaleb’s mom says so. She says his behavior improved almost immediately.
The mom describes what happens with Kaleb has a temper tantrum. Kaleb will flop onto the floor throwing himself around. The dog goes over and lays on Kaleb giving him pressure; this immediately calms him down.
But even though the dog helps so much at home, the school wouldn’t allow Kaleb to bring the dog to school. Chewey was seen as a comfort animal, not a service animal. Well, Kaleb’s mom wasn’t going to stand for that and so she took the school to court stating that Kaleb needed the dog to help him at school. Just recently, the Illinois appellate court has made the decision that Kaleb can take Chewey with him to school. Stated in the court’s decision was that Chewey is trained to perform specific tasks for Kaleb’s benefit.
The hope is that with this decision, all students with a disability who would benefit from having a service dog will be able to do so, whether the disability is for children who are deaf or blind (which is already allowed) or an autistic boy like Kaleb. Now that the dog has been going to school for awhile, the other children understand that he’s not to be played with.