Service dog visit provides autism lesson to South Allegheny middle schoolers
Jennifer Ohnhaus of Lincoln visited a South Allegheny Middle School classroom on Friday to introduce students to Damon, an autism service dog for her 8-year-old son, Lance.
With much recognition given in October to breast cancer or domestic violence awareness, district public relations coordinator Laura Thomson asked students in Stacey Ghetian's character education class to turn their attention to those with disabilities.
In addition to other commemorative months, October is National Disability Awareness Month.
“We invited Mrs. Ohnhaus in to talk to you because more and more we are seeing animals assisting people with disabilities,” Thomson said.
While many people are familiar with seeing-eye dogs that aid the visually impaired, service dogs meet a variety of needs for children and adults with physical or mental disabilities.
The Ohnhaus family received their dog from K-9s for Kids through an Autism Center of Pittsburgh grant funded by District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.'s office. Lance is a student of an autism program in Dormont.
“Damon came from a whole litter of puppies that were bred to be service dogs,” Ohnhaus explained.
K-9s for Kids trains service dogs for children with behavioral disorders and alert dogs for children with diabetes and seizure disorders. Ohnhaus and Lance — with help from Lance's older brother Christian, a South Allegheny Middle School student — trained with K-9s for Kids for a full year to earn obedience and service certification.
“Damon is a good dog,” Ohnhaus said. “My son has trouble making friends and talking ... It's hard at parks and other places because he doesn't know how to say, ‘Will you play with me?'”
Ohnhaus said the service dog has helped Lance socially because it allows him to make a connection in otherwise difficult scenarios. A changed child since the dog became part of the Ohnhaus family, Lance now shows affection to the dog he initially was afraid to approach.
Students said they were interested to learn that service dogs are helpful companions for individuals with special needs.
“I learned that service dogs can be as close as your neighbors,” eighth-grader A.J. Yarborough said. “This isn't something you just see on TV or far away.”
Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steel Valley to provide free breakfast, lunch to all students
- McKeesport salons merge
- Wheelchair-bound kids get into the swing at White Oak playground
- Cemetery in Munhall considers filing for bankruptcy
- Trail construction to begin in Versailles
- McKeesport Area directors OK tax hike in preliminary budget
- Steel Valley keeps taxes flat in 2015-16 budget
- Elizabeth Forward board approves no-hike budget
- UPMC McKeesport’s stroke team recognized
- Students benefit from annual Brewster-sponsored government seminar
- Organizers prepare for Warrior Run fundraiser