Seizure Dogs: Children and Parent Partners
Seizure dogs that are specifically trained to help someone who is having a seizure are a type of service animal. Seizure dogs play a unique role. How a seizure dog can best help someone, young or old, depends on that person’s specific needs and abilities.
A seizure response dog may be trained to stay with a person or lie next to the person during a seizure, or the dog may be able to learn to bark to alert others or fetch help. There are also reports of seizure alert dogs that have learned to detect a seizure before the person is aware of it and warn the person with seizures in advance to sit down or move to a safe place. For a dog to help someone with seizures, they must undergo extensive training with a reputable trainer. This training should include basic skills training as well as training specific to responding to seizures.
- Many different factors are considered when training a seizure dog, including a dog’s personality and temperament.
- Most dogs spend two years training before being introduced and partnered with a child/parent team or an individual.
Children and Parent (Adult) Partners
Children who are younger than age 12 may not be able to participate in the rigorous training needed. Programs are available that can include a parent, guardian, healthcare aid or other adult as a “partner” so the benefit of a seizure dog is possible for the child and the family. Both the child and adult partner are integral parts of the training process. Involving the child and the adult partner from the very beginning is typically required for the bonding process between the child and the dog, and the dog and adult partner, to occur.
Programs that help both children and parent (adult) partners successfully bring a seizure dog into the home and school have shown that some seizure dogs can
- Provide comfort and companionship to a child
- Help children build their independence
- Help children who feel isolated by their seizures bond with their peers in the school setting and in social settings
- Go with children to medical appointments, hospital stays and procedures to help lessen stress, fear and anxiety
- Be part of a variety of therapy (for example, physical or occupational therapy) sessions to support, enhance and encourage a child’s participation
- Help with balance related risks and safety
- Partner with a parent or classroom aide to act when needed during behavioral difficulties
- Provide a sense of reassurance to parents and other family members
Service Dogs in Public Schools
Any person, including a child with a disability, has the right to use a service dog or emotional support dog. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) permits any student with a disability who uses a service dog to have the animal accompany them at school.
"Seizure dogs are considered service dogs."
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act allow a student to use an animal that does not meet the ADA definition of a service animal if that student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) or Section 504 team decides the animal is necessary for the student to receive a free and appropriate education.
Remember to Ask the Advice of Your Epilepsy Team
It is always important to have a conversation with your child’s epilepsy team when considering a new medical or alternative therapy, or when using a new device or support for your child.
- Share with your epilepsy team your family’s interest in a seizure dog for your child.
- Review the potential benefits and any concerns the team may have.
- Recognize that a seizure dog can be both a wonderful aid and comfort for your child, but never replace any other recommendations for alerting, monitoring or support devices without first speaking with your doctor.
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