Children with disabilities are becoming increasingly accustomed to service and therapy animals, and for a good reason. Animals can significantly impact children’s physical independence and mental wellbeing, according to research. In many contexts, service and therapy animals are also being taught to assist individuals with various disabilities.
Working Animal Types
Service, emotional support, and therapy animals go through differing degrees of specialized training to do various jobs according to their owner’s specific needs. Additionally, they have access to more public areas than pets as companions.
According to the Service Animal Association, a therapy animal works with its owner to improve the health of others, while a service dog helps the person with duties they cannot do on their own due to a handicap. Emotional support animals also help their impaired owners’ health.
Animals as Emotional Support
Although practically any other species is appropriate, dogs are widely utilized as emotional support animals. They support a single impaired person and are medically prescribed by a doctor.
Although not professionally trained, emotional support animals offer much comfort and assistance. As a result, they are accepted in “no dogs allowed” hotels, restaurants, and other public spaces, as well as on flights.
The ADA permits trained miniature horses in addition to the great majority of service animals, and dogs. Service animals may accomplish numerous jobs. They may pull a wheelchair, pick up dropped goods, guide blind or deaf people, notify others of someone experiencing a seizure, or provide other useful physical assistance to a person with a physical disability.
Service dogs are regarded as “medical equipment” and are not to be treated as pets. As a result, they enjoy specific legal protections that allow them to go almost anywhere with their owner.
Pets that have undergone training, registration, and insurance are therapy animals. They are owned by someone who brings the animal to facilities for therapeutic purposes rather than by one disabled person they assist. A therapy animal may go to nursing homes, hospitals, clinics, or schools for comfort and stress alleviation.
Therapy animals cannot be introduced into a school without specific permission since they are not medically necessary, unlike service animals and emotional support animals.
Different Needs Met
For challenged youngsters, service and emotional support animals can be very helpful. In order for you and the animal to get the most out of each other, the animal needs to be trained how to be more than just a nice companion.
Here are just a few advantages that your child might experience from having a service or emotional support animal:
- Inform people when an incident occurs that needs rapid medical attention, such as a seizure.
- Build responsibility and self-worth.
- Encourage social skills in children by responding to their input. For instance, horses will spook when a youngster touches them, yet dogs will obey directions.
- Help a youngster who is blind, deaf, or has attention problems cross the street safely, avoiding any barriers, and avoiding running into other pedestrians.
- assist in tackling issues with anxiety and mood.
- Show acceptable conduct (like relaxing in bed, rising for the day, and responding to requests).
- Offer company and emotional assistance.
- Physical assistance is needed for transferring, maintaining balance, and other requirements.
- Recover dropped or challenging-to-reach items.
- Pay attention to the youngster as they read aloud to promote learning.
Whatever your child’s needs, there’s a strong possibility that an animal can provide assistance. However, before taking any drastic measures, keep in mind that animals are living, feeling beings who require a secure environment and a pet owner who can recognize their needs and limitations.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), if the animal is considered “medical equipment” or has been prescribed by a doctor, it may always go with your child.
According to the statute, “The ADA compels State and local government agencies, corporations, and nonprofit organizations (covered entities) to make “reasonable adaptations” in their policies, practices, or processes where necessary to accommodate people with disabilities. This overarching idea is covered by the service animal regulations.
To make sure your animal satisfies the requirements for service and support animals, you must first verify the laws of your state. In some jurisdictions, emotional support animals might not enjoy the same level of legal protection as service animals.
If you’re thinking about getting a service animal, you should be aware that there are instances in which you can be asked to leave a public area if your pet starts to bother other people or poses a threat to them. A company or state/local government may ask the owner of a service animal to remove them if they are unruly or not housebroken.
As a result, organizations that have a “no dogs” policy typically change it to permit service animals inside their facilities.
Schools must abide by the same regulations. Allergies and a phobia of dogs aren’t valid reasons to refuse service to anyone with service animals.
When a person with a service animal and a person sensitive to dog dander must be in the same room or establishment, such as a school classroom or a homeless shelter, both should be assigned to distinct areas within the room or different rooms in the establishment.
Pets are not covered by the same laws that apply to emotional support animals and service animals. Even if your child has a strong emotional bond with their pet, they might need to leave the animal at home if a doctor hasn’t recommended it.
You can ask your doctor or therapist to draft a formal statement outlining your kid’s handicap and why the animal is necessary for their mental health if you want them to recommend an emotional support animal for your impaired child. This letter needs to be given in advance to public places like hotels and apartments that don’t allow pets.
However, it is against the law for staff members in public places to demand documentation that a dog or miniature horse is a support animal. The ADA forbids companies from soliciting or demanding proof that the animal is a service animal, yet you might be requested to prove its status. Not only are specific collars, harnesses, or vests not required for service animals, but many do so as a helpful nonverbal tactic to avoid discrimination and well-intended but unwanted petting.
How to Support a Highly Emotional Child in Handling Strong Emotions
Research breeds and sorts, take your child to meet a few potential pets, and then adopt or purchase the animal that best fits your family’s needs if all you want for your child is a pet buddy. The ADA does not apply to such animals; hence they will not be allowed in public spaces.
If necessary, you can request a letter from your child’s doctor to identify your pet as an emotional support animal.
You should expect a significantly different experience if you’re interested in a trained service animal. Because they are professionally trained, service animals are pricey. Additionally, a service animal will only be given to your child if they have received the necessary training and can relate to the animal in a healthy way. To make sure you have a proper home for the animal, you might even need to submit to a house inspection.
Even though service animals are expensive, there is a good chance that a nonprofit service animal provider will be able to give you with one for little to nothing. Additionally, there are organizations that offer grants or help families raise money for service animals. You might also be able to cover some of your expenses if you have health insurance that is not provided by Medicaid (including insurance for veterans). Cerebralpalsy.org suggests the following nonprofit organizations:
- 4 Paws for Ability
- Assistance Dogs International
- Dogs for the Deaf and Disabled Americans
- International Federation of Guide Dog Schools
- International Association of Dog Partners
- Paws for a Cause
Service, emotional support, and therapy animals can help people with mental and physical problems. However, do your research and ensure your family has the time and finances to care for the animal before bringing it home. The unconditional love and support that service animals may provide, when it’s a good fit, can benefit your child and your family.