Mini Series: Topic #4

Disability Accommodation Planning – this is an area that is often overlooked by SD training programs, whose primary focus is typically on the training of the dogs.  We challenge all trainers to re-think this approach, and adopt a more holistic approach that places the emphasis on the training of the team.  The FSDS conducts an educational needs assessment on prospective recipients, and using this assessment we construct an Individualized Education Plan designed to ensure that reasonable and appropriate accommodations are in place.

Consider the case of a student who may be on medications that cause them to take frequent bathroom breaks.  How many of you would feel at ease on day one in a new class with other students you do not know if you had to raise your hand and announce that you needed additional bathroom breaks?  This can be embarrassing for a student.  A disability accommodation plan is designed to promote healthy and private communication between student and teacher prior to the first day of class, so that issues such as this are all addressed and the teacher is fully aware of any reasons that a student may need to get up and move about the room, or leave the room to use the bathroom with frequency.

The following types of accommodations should be addressed:

  • Personal Assistance Needs
  • Learning Accommodations
  • Personal Comfort

Personal Assistance Needs – students who are wheelchair bound or require assistance with bathroom breaks may need to bring an aide to class with them to assist with these needs.   Other students may be unable to drive and have to rely on a friend or family member.  Others who suffer from PTSD may need to bring a support person with them, particularly in cases of a public field trip.  This should be permitted and an additional fee should not be charged for the additional support person to attend class with them.

Learning Accommodations – while some students may have developmental disabilities or head injuries that result in primary learning challenges, there are others who face secondary challenges.  A secondary challenge is one that arises for reasons such as multiple medications that cause impaired memory and concentration or chronic pain that creates a distraction and diminishes their ability to sit for any period of time and concentrate.  Some examples of learning accommodations may include but are not limited to:

  • extended time for tests
  • oral in lieu of written tests as needed
  • a quiet area for testing
  • additional time to process and answer questions as needed
  • extended time to complete assignments
  • ability to work with a “study buddy” or classmate for classroom activities or assignments
  • periodic cues from instructor to stay focused and on task

Personal Comfort – It is important to remember that some of your students may experience significant pain or discomfort on a regular basis.  This must be factored in when structuring your class time in order to promote success for all.   Examples of some types of accommodations you should offer include:

  • seating along wall to avoid others being seated behind them (for those with PTSD)
  • ability to arrive early on day 1 to become familiar with classroom
  • assistance with evacuation drills
  • front row seating

In addition to these items that must be added, there should be a plan to avoid certain situations such as:

  • loud or unexpected noises, as possible
  • flashing lights or displays – this may precipitate seizures for some students
  • dimly lit areas

Working with students who have PTSD

Accommodating the needs of those with PTSD will prove to be a challenge.  We suggest that you have a questionnaire that specifically asks students which sorts of field trips will be problematic for them.  Remind your students that in order for you to train the dog to work with them in public to address any PTSD needs, you have to take them into public.  This can not be avoided.  For military veterans, you will not have as great concerns about taking them into a situation where a prior trauma has occurred.  For crime victims and first responders, however, the situation is different.

Crime victims should not be taken to the scene of a crime where they experienced the trauma.  For example, if they were brutally assaulted in a movie theater, a trip to the movie theater is not a winning plan.

First responders are out and about the community and for these individuals you will need to be more cautious.  Some may have been involved in shootings or assaulted while on a call.  This means that a greater number of public places may be problematic.  Be careful to draw some lines.  For example, if they were assaulted in a parking lot, then it is prudent to avoid that particular parking lot, but not ALL parking lots.  Individuals will be in varying phases of recovery when they come to you.  Some may understand that these trips are needed and bring a support person.  Others may seek to control all potential trips and for these students you will need to assess the problem and work out a compromise.

One suggestion is to allow each student one “absolute no” for a field trip location…and let them know that they may bring a support person or buddy up with a classmate for other situations.

Emma Pro 001Farewell to Emma

It is with great sadness that we inform our readers that the FSDS’ first certified service dog and Canine Ambassador, Emma, passed away on January 15th.  Emma died peacefully at home in the arms of her mother, with her brother (and successor SD) by her side.

Emma was born Aug. 20, 2005.  She served as the inspiration for the creation of the FSDS, and it was her photo that was used to create our very first logo.  She served faithfully as our first ambassador, attending countless community presentations to promote proper SD training and certification.  Her big golden grin and sweet nature won the hearts of all who knew her.  In 2008 she was credited with saving the life of her mother by pulling her out of the way of an oncoming truck.  Emma retired at age 10 and lived out her retirement at home as “Chief of Homeland Security”.  Her presence and influence here at the FSDS will forever be felt, and she will be loved and missed by all of us.  Rest in peace, dear friend.

Classroom News

Advanced class – our advanced class is progressing nicely as then complete month 14 of their 18 month training program.  All students have passed their Canine Good Citizen and Public Appropriateness Tests, and are working on mastering their advanced SD tasks.  This involves both classroom practice, and learning how to perform those tasks with the distractions of being in public.

Beginner class – this class is progressing nicely.  Our puppies are hard at work on mastering their basic commands and learning proper etiquette and good manners.

Wellness Tip

This month we highlight the dangers of medication poisoning. Many common OTC medications that are considered benign for humans can be lethal if ingested by dogs.  One such example is Ibuprofen.  Ibuprofen, even in small amounts, can be very toxic and potentially lethal if ingested.  Readers should take great care to keep their dogs from any pills that they may accidentally drop on the floor.  The “leave it” command can prove to be life-saving.  Early intervention (such as inducing vomiting) is of great importance, and in cases where your dog has ingested Ibuprofen you should contact your veterinarian immediately.  Some fo the signs of Ibuprofen toxicity include:

  • bloody vomiting or diarrhea
  • lethargy
  • abdominal pain
  • loss of appetite
  • pale gums
  • weakness
  • seizures
  • death

If you accidentally drop a pill on the floor at home and it rolls out of sight, we recommend that you remove your dog from the area.  You should get on the floor with a strong light to look for the pill, and if you are unable to do so request assistance from a friend or family member.  The dog should not be permitted back into that area until the pill has been located.

Thank you

Our sincere thanks to those who have contributed during the month of January to making our program a success.

  • Valerie Schluter
  • DAV Auxiliary Unit 1
  • Richard and Brenda Elder
  • Armed Forces Support Group Sun City Grand
  • Dr. Margaret Brown,MD

Upcoming Events

Feb. 24th – Westbrook Village Veterans Support Club Annual Car Show- this fun and family friendly event is held each year and the FSDS has been blessed to be the recipient of the proceeds.  The location is the Vistas Parking Lot at Westbrook Village 18827 N Country Club Parkway, Peoria AZ  85382. The FSDS will be on hand with some of our teams to meet and greet event-goers.

March 9th – Armed Forces Support Group of Sun City Grand Annual Golf Tournament.  For information on how you can sign up to participate please contact them directly.

Photo Gallery

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