Service Dog case finally resolved

Carter Kalbfleisch and his Service Dog Corbin

Carter’s parents had been fighting Columbia, IL school leaders since last summer to get the district to allow Corbin to accompany Carter to school. They repeatedly refused, despite a contrary ruling by a Monroe County judge and an upholding of that ruling by the 5th District Appellate Court. This is not surprising. Years ago I attempted to bring my trained Golden Retriever Therapy Dog into school settings and was met with much opposition.

Interestingly, the district finally decided to send Carter and his dog to the Illinois Center for Autism, a quite costly endeavor (having to pay over $30,000 yearly). But, Carter is now thriving, and Corbin has not caused any of the problems that the district had feared.

One of the reasons the school district refused to allow Corbin in the school was the fear that the dog would create havoc in a room full of autistic and special-needs kids.

“We’ve had no problems at all,” Illinois Center for Autism Principal Sandra Rodenberg said. “He’s fit in beautifully and is a big motivator for a lot of our kids. We’ve had to change nothing to accommodate him.”

Rodenberg said the school would gladly welcome more service dogs trained for autistic children at the school. “We would love to have more,” she said.

Melissa Kalbfleisch watched her son interact with other children, jumping from one wading pool to another, his clothes drenched, his face, smiling. Before Corbin, it would have taken more than one adult and brute force to move Carter out the classroom to participate in the Fun Day activities, Kalbfleisch said. He would have had no interest in the wading pools or with interacting with staff and students.

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