Service Dogs for Autistic Kids

Stella Johnson

Active Member
Donated dog for autistic child meets opposition

This article is from our local news here in Dallas. What are your thoughts on service dogs in class?

Would it be beneficial for all? Too much of a distraction? What about kids who are scared of dogs or have Sensory Integration Disorder?

Just curious what your thoughts are...

12:24 AM CDT on Thursday, March 29, 2007


WYLIE - A mother's fight to make life easier for her four-year-old autistic son got a helping hand while also meeting up with a barrier.

Lori Ruscitti's friends and neighbors came together and raised enough money to buy the family a service dog. But there's one big problem, his school district won't allow dogs to attend class.

Every day is a constant struggle for Colton Ruscitti, who is autistic. Last year, the boy wandered away from his home and fell out of a two-story window.

"We can't watch him 24-hours-a-day," Mrs. Ruscitti said. "It's impossible. We need help."

Help came in the form of a dog named "Charlie," who is a specially trained service dog the family hopes will keep Colton safe and secure. The Wylie and Murphy communities helped raise $14,000 to give the family the dog, which will happen in May.

"That dog provides security for them," Ruscitti said of the easing effect dogs have on autistic children. "It helps calm them down. It reduces meltdowns."

Mrs. Ruscitti met with Wylie Independent School District officials who listened, but announced that Charlie will not be allowed into the classrooms.

"[I feel] disappointment because autism is so rampant," Mrs. Ruscitti said. "It's not going anywhere. This is just another tool to help these children."

WISD Superintendent John Fuller gave a statement Wednesday that said the district doesn't allow pets in classrooms, including dogs. The only exception is the use of service dogs that are trained to provide assistance to students with special needs such as blindness, physical disability or lack of mobility.

There was no mention about autism.

"Wylie just needs to step out of their box," Mrs. Ruscitti said. "There's not really a downside to allowing this dog in school."

A final decision on Charlie could be made by a special needs committee before the start of the next school year.


New Member
I do not think the school can block a service dog? If a child were blind and had a guide dog, guide dogs are permitted everywhere.similar to a wheelchair. I believe it is discrimination against the handicapped to block a service dog from attendance with the person who owns the service dog.
IIRC service dogs are trained intensively and they handle all kinds of situations, behave with exemplary behavior..........I think dogs for autistic kids- if they are trained and certified service dogs cannot be excluded. (But I am not positive- and I can eassily imagine my school trying to block school refused to permit books on tape for my son post surgery when he could not see.......)


New Member
I am not clear what you mean when you ask what about kids with sensory integration disorder? As for kids who are afraid of dogs.well, there were lots of things in my kids classes they were afraid of- like the teachers yelling........or the boy in difficult children self contained class who one nite was arrested for death threats to my dtr and assault, but the next day the school said my dtr had no choice but to site next to him in class becuz HE had "every right to be in school"

Having a service dog in the school could be a wondrful learning opportunity for the other kids in the school.they could learn how to behave around a service dog.

Hound dog

Nana's are Beautiful
Hmmmmm. Wouldn't that fall under discrimination of the disabled?

We actually considered this for T for a short time because of both the autism and the visual disability. We changed our minds because of the autism. T would never remember to care for the dog at all. (out of sight out of mind, excuse the pun)


New Member
<span style='font-size: 14pt'> <span style='font-family: Georgia'> <span style="color: #663366"> seems to me the SD is going to loose this arguement since the superintendant stated that they DO ALLOW SERVICE DOGS for other disabilities. his mistake is referring to this child's dog as a pet. the dog is not a pet. it's a certfied service dog.

gone are the days were only the blind have service dogs. the deaf have them, people with-spinal cord injuries, heart disease, diabetes, seizure disorders, etc., are having dogs trained to assist them. if the SD allows service dogs for one disability they must allow for all.

since the dog would not be there to function as a pet the other kids should not be petting/playing with-it so sensory issue (i've never heard of kids having SI with-pets) shouldn't be an issue. a child who is afraid? well that could be a problem tho the dog shouldn't be anywhere near. the only real issue i could see is if someone has a severe allery that can be triggered by the dander.

all the *what ifs* are moot in my opinion because they do allow service dogs. this child is comes under people with-disabilities act. school will have to adjust when all is said & done.

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Well-Known Member
This dog is a certified service dog. The school will lose if they push it. The dog will come with a harness or some sort of thing over it that shows that it is a service dog. It is not a pet and shouldnt be treated as one.

I looked into getting a service dog to assist me in both my physical problems and my psychiatric ones. They now use them for people with depression and bipolar disorder. The dogs can actually fetch medications and call 911. They can help a person up and down steps for mobility reasons.

A school or any public place cannot keep a service dog out.