Credit: Kidsday staff artist / Sofia Zhiminaicela, Hampton Bays

Have you ever seen a student who has autism with a well-trained dog beside them? Those dogs are therapy dogs. They are specially trained to help an individual with autism. For example, these dogs help kids with autism feel more confident and comfortable in the school environment.

Many schools don’t allow therapy dogs. I disagree with this because these dogs are there to help the student. What if something happens to a student such as a seizure or other medical issue? Did you know that many people diagnosed with autism have seizures? Since dogs have an amazing sense of smell, they can sense when something goes wrong because they are very smart animals. A teacher or aide might respond too late.

Therapy dogs should also be allowed in schools because if the student is nonverbal and feeling uncomfortable, he or she wouldn’t be able to tell the teacher, but the dog could sense that, and then comfort the student. Another reason to let therapy dogs in schools is that it’s good for the dog to be with the student throughout the day so it can figure out more ways to help.

I have an older brother, Matthew, and he has autism. We are getting a therapy dog for him soon to help him with some things like looking both ways before he crosses the street, and a few academic and physical things. Matthew really wants to take our dog to school, but when I come to think of it, once we get our dog, Matthew will want to take it everywhere! He loves dogs.

The next time you see a student with autism, maybe suggest to their teacher or parent to get a therapy dog for them. It could really help them.

Robyn Madden and Patricia Roberts’ sixth-grade class, Garden City Middle School