Legally blind children who are 11 years of age or older, are physically and mentally mature, have an active lifestyle and have the requisite O&M spatial representational skill set are eligible to apply for a guide dog. In addition, their parent(s) or guardian must have a strong desire to actively participate in an ongoing training program with the child and guide dog and must be willing to provide constant supervisory support. The school the child attends must be notified about the addition of a guide dog, be able to accommodate a guide dog in the classroom situation, become knowledgeable about guide dog etiquette and be willing to supervise the student body in this regard. Lastly, until our training facility is built, all training will take place in Canada so parents/guardians must be willing to travel to Canada with their child for 30 days of training during the summer months.
what we’ll need
All applications must include the following:
- MIRA application
- A medical report
- A report from an ophthalmologist or optometrist
- A recommendation from the O&M specialist
- A video of the child that clearly demonstrates the necessary
- Orientation and Mobility skills. The video will be reviewed by our O&M specialist as well as MIRA Canada. The decision to accept a child into the guide dog program depends not only upon their level of O&M skills, but also upon the physical and mental maturity of the child as well as the views of the child’s parent(s) or guardian regarding their continued involvement with the training process and the care of the dog.
- A fully qualified child will be invited to participate in the guide dog training program at MIRA Canada.
If there are questions with respect to eligibility and qualifications, the child may be required to visit the MIRA Canada training facility for further evaluation. If the child qualifies in all areas but has an insufficient level of O&M skills, suggestions will be made regarding future work that may be undertaken after which the child would be re-evaluated. If the child is then determined to be eligible to receive a dog, the child will be invited to join a summer guide dog training class at MIRA Canada.
what to expect
MIRA USA will provide transportation for a child and a parent or guardian to travel to and from MIRA Canada for guide dog training during the summer months. The child and their parent/guardian will be provided with room and board for 30 days at the MIRA Canada training facility. When our MIRA USA facility is built, all training will take place in North Carolina.
Classes generally include 6 children and training consists of an intensive 30-day program with the caveat being that because they are children, training must be lively, fun and interesting. Training sessions on dog use and orientation which include both individual and group activities take place between 8:30 am and 5:00 pm. Breakfast is served between 7:00 am and 8:15 am and classes break for lunch. (Note that participants must bring with them all personal supplies such as shampoo, soap towels, hairdryers and toothpaste. MIRA Canada supplies laundry soap, washer/dryer, iron and ironing board and sheets/pillows. There is a TV in the living room and participants are invited to bring a radio or TV for their room. )
Over the course of the 4 weeks, training becomes more and more complex as it focuses on having the children and their dogs experience more real-life situations. After the children have mastered the skills needed to work with a dog and are able to orient themselves in a regulated outdoor environment, training continues with visits to downtown areas of densely populated cities with a high level of traffic to allow students to demonstrate their level of proficiency.
At the end of this 30-day training period, children receive a dog bowl, a leash and a student certificate. Upon their return home, they continue working the dog with their orientation and mobility trainer. A MIRA Canada trainer will provide a minimum of 3 follow-up training sessions in their home environment in the US sometime after their return.
If you are interested in having your child apply to our program and would like to begin the application process, please download our application or contact the MIRA office, 910.944.7757.