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Heeling Autism Program Update

Posted June 29th, 2016

Dear Friends,

The “Heeling Autism” Program was introduced by Guiding Eyes for the Blind as one of our alternate careers for dogs not suited for guide dog work, which are instead placed with families with children on the autism spectrum.

The program has flourished for the past seven years and provided great dogs to many families. In order to maintain the commitment to provide a service to this community, while operating as a financially responsible organization, Guiding Eyes is implementing a shift in the organization’s model.  Following training, dogs will now be placed within a school that caters to children on the autism spectrum, beginning with one school and evolving into a national model for the future.

The benefits of this program include:

  • More children will benefit from each autism support dog.

  • Guiding Eyes, in partnership with the pilot school, will develop best practices in a data driven curriculum, which can then be replicated nationwide.

  • Guiding Eyes will receive valuable data on the outcomes the dog has on classroom instruction to continue to improve the program.

  • The first innovative school to use Guiding Eyes dogs will introduce the program curriculum and best practices to other schools in their network. The model will offset program expenses and facilitate a long-term, self-sustaining program for autism support dogs.

At Guiding Eyes, we believe in the power of guide dogs to create meaningful connections. We recognize the impact our dogs have on individuals and families around the country, and those families that have already received dogs through the autism Program will continue to receive our support.

In keeping with our commitment, there will be a Fall ’16 and Spring ’17 class under the current model.

The decision to move to this new model was made after diligent consideration by our board of directors. We’re excited about the future of our new program and look forward to helping more children on the autism spectrum from within the classroom and from wherever the success of the program leads us.

Thomas Panek
CEO & President