Equity in the classroom: supporting students with service dogs
On Tuesday, October 30th, the provincial government released a news statement outlining a legislative amendment that, if implemented, would highlight the right that families should have to send their children to school with their service dogs. The news release states that currently “only 39 of 72 school boards across Ontario have policies in place to address the need for service animals in schools, leaving students vulnerable and parents facing challenges to support their child’s special needs.”
OSTA-AECO believes that this proposed change creates better learning environments for students with exceptionalities. Service animals are an essential addition to a child’s success in the classroom, and a companion that develops a long-term connection to the child and their individual needs. They aid students in developing their ability to focus on the task at hand, and help students remain calm in crowds. We recognize that all students require individualized learning modifications in order to be successful, and furthermore should have the right to access these accommodations to better the quality of their learning. Providing all Ontario families with the right to send their children to school with their service dogs enables greater opportunities for student success. As a society, we educate students in order to create competent, confident, and capable citizens; this amendment gives students with special needs the provincial right to be educated equitably with their fellow classmates. OSTA-AECO acknowledges the Ministry of Education’s effort to create equitable learning environments through this amendment.
However, we still have many barriers to overcome in creating an equitable learning environment for all students across Ontario. The current government’s election platform pledges to “provide an additional $38 million in funding for all children with autism, above and beyond the funding already in the government’s plan.” With this additional funding, the total for autism funding would increase to $100 million over the mandated value. OSTA-AECO calls on the provincial government to uphold this pledge and continue to create alterations to support students with various learning needs. All students deserve to be presented with the proper tools that will contribute to a learning environment that supports their learning style.
About the authors:
Sean McCloskey is a Student Trustee for the Renfrew County District School Board and the Public Board Council Vice-President of OSTA-AECO. Sean also has a brother with autism spectrum disorder and has witnessed first-hand the benefits of creating a specialized learning environment for students with exceptionalities.
Sophia Trozzo is a Student Trustee for the York Catholic District School Board and the Catholic Board Council President of OSTA-AECO. Sophia has a brother with autism spectrum disorder and has experienced first hand the positive effects that his service dog has had on his verbal and social communication skills. To the right is an image of Sophia’s brother Julian with his service dog Eli.