A Winnipeg mom wants to see provincial guidelines for service dogs changed after she says her autistic son will be unfairly singled out.
Tracey Drexler’s six-year-old son has autism and requires a service dog to help keep him safe and calm.
“Safety is the first concern, but it’s come a long way with the social skills. He makes eye contact now,” she said. “He’s gone from two to three echolocaic words to 12-word sentences and wants to interact with people.”
In March, the boy’s service dog, named Keates, will join him at school.
Last month, Drexler found out the St. James-Assiniboia School Division plans to send out a letter alerting parents that a service dog will be in the school. Officials will also put up a sign letting people know a service dog is on the premises.
The letter and sign won’t identify her son or mention that her son is autistic, but Drexler is worried the notices will single out her son.
“I have a feeling that the parents would be looking for who the child is, who needs the service dog and then focusing on him,” she said.
Officials with the school division declined an interview with CBC, but a spokesperson did say the division is following provincially mandated guidelines by sending home a letter.
Children in the school may have allergies or phobias, the spokesperson noted.
Drexler’s not happy about it though.
“I wouldn’t go into Superstore and yell throughout the aisle, ‘Clear the way if you have allergies because there is a service dog coming!’” she said. “It’s just kind of ridiculous."
Drexler said she wants the province’s policy changed, and in the meantime, she’s contemplating filing a human rights complaint.