Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Show, Don't Tell--Taking the Lead From the Grand Pooh-bah of Writing Rules

On Friday, P and I met with E's school to discuss her individualized learning goals for next year. Since a key agenda item was a discussion about the arrival of E's service dog Jewel next fall, we brought the dog.

Administrators at the table looked less than pleased when we arrived with the dog unannounced. But here's the thing. Since Jewel wears an official service dog vest, she had every right to be there. And assuring everyone that Jewel's an exemplary dog in the world of service dogs wasn't going to be as powerful a show as demonstrating her abilities first-hand, not with the principal, superintendent, and district attorney already anticipating parental concerns about dog bites, fatal allergic reactions, and you-name-the-scenario scenarios. So, I took the lead from what I believe is the grand pooh-bah of all writing rules--show, don't tell.

Jewel's trainer Jack had faith she'd do great during the meeting. I mentally crossed my fingers the whole time. And shouldn't have worried. Jewel was well-behaved the entire two-plus hours.

Now our hope is that administrators warm to the idea by August. And if they don't? Well, we might be in for an interesting battle because federal law protects Jewel's right to come to school with E.

How did Jack explain it at the meeting? In so many words, he quoted the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) after someone suggested that maybe E not need Jewel at school. Then he followed up with: Just as you wouldn't take a seeing eye dog away from its owner, you can't expect E to go through the day without Jewel.

The same person tried to argue the two situations couldn't be compared. "No," Jack said, shaking his head. "A service dog is a service dog. When Jewel and E come to school, they'll come as a team, and can't be separated." Boy, am I glad Jack came along with us for that ride.

We do a walk-through of the school in a couple weeks to recreate E's day with Jewel in mind, and discuss an accomodation plan for the classroom, lunch room, gym class, restroom, etc.

Edited to add: Here's hoping the walk-through is less contentious than the meeting.

Current read: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Thrilled it finally rose to the top of my pile.

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