Autism Service Dog Program Eliminated?! Help Save It!
July 12, 2016
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Now Reading: Autism Service Dog Program Eliminated?! Help Save It!
July 12, 2016
As some of you may know, we have an autism service dog for my son.
My autistic son is 13 now but we got our precious dog “Paula” 6 years ago when he was 7 years old, and at his most difficult behaviorally. And Paula was a godsend and extremely helpful to us.
We got Paula from an amazing organization called Heeling Autism. It was an offshoot of the long-standing not-for-profit Guiding Eyes for the Blind (GEB)
GEB had a long and storied history of supplying guide dogs to the blind population for the past 60 years.
|Paula’s graduation picture|
And back in 2008 they launched a program that took guide dogs that weren’t a right fit for working with the blind, and they retrained them to work with kids with autism and gave them to these families for FREE!
I wrote all about our experiences with Paula and the organization back in 2011 on my blog post, “The Story of Our Autism Service Dog Paula” that you can read HERE. I encourage you to go over and read that for more of a blow-by-blow of how we got her and how she helps.
the 3 trainers we worked with were AMAZING! They somehow knew more about autism and our daily struggles than many people / even experts in our autism world… And they’ve only been doing this for 4-5 years. Before that they were blind guide dog trainers. Anyway… AMAZING women.
Yet, Heeling Autism costs less than 1.5% of the organization’s total annual expenses, including less than 50% of the postage/mailing services and less than 23% of the printing/publications expenses.
A petition was started by graduates (a part of a team with either a guide dog or autism service dog), staff, volunteers, donors and members of the community who believe strongly in the Guiding Eyes mission, and we’re concerned about the direction Guiding Eyes has taken under the current leadership. The abrupt elimination of the Heeling Autism program is just the tip of the iceberg.
So we started a petition to Save Heeling Autism that you can find HERE or by clicking below.
So I implore you all to please sign it, and share it (using #SaveHeelingAutism), and post a comment on it.
One last thing to mention, we autism families never wanted to make this a competition between the blind and the autism communities.
They both deserve service/guide dogs and GEB has plenty of dogs to go around.
And while the CEO is using the need for GEB to operate as a financially responsible organization as a reason for Heeling Autism’s elimination, they have recently launched (and seem to have enough dogs for) a new program called “Running Guides” which is dedicated to training guide dogs to help blind runners run long distance races.
Saving the lives of children on the autism spectrum by preventing them from running out into a busy street, or wandering away to be lost, drowned, or even killed, is arguably an equally worthy cause.
Also, as any service dog trainer will tell you training a dog to run those long distances will almost definitely shorten that dogs working, service dog life.
So we implore the Board of Directors at GEB to reverse their decision and reinstate the Heeling Autism program to its current model. And if possible to put even more resources towards the autism service dog program.
And when you sign, comment, and share the petition you’ll see a lot of the other comments. And you’ll read a lot of negativity. Yes, things have gotten a bit nasty over at GEB. There has been a lot of staff turnover and turmoil.
Just last week the long time head veterinarian was abruptly fired. He worked at GEB for 26 years and knew every dog, and every dog recipient and their family (both the dogs for the blind & the autism service dogs).
Many of us think that his firing is in retaliation of this petition as his wife is the head trainer of the Heeling Autism dogs, one of those amazing trainers I wrote about above.
But we feel that it’s not too late to turn this around! Please sign, comment, and share the petition like crazy.
Thanks! Now here’s two more cute doggie pics for ya of the king and his princess “Paula”
Wait, here’s the petition one more time! #SaveHeelingAutism Please sign, share, tweet, etc! You can also reach the petition at www.saveheelingautism.com
Written byFrank Campagna
I’m a 48 year old neurotypical dad with a 14 year old son with severe, non-verbal autism & epilepsy. I created this blog to rant about autism & epilepsy while celebrating my son who I affectionately call “the king” :-).