Chili, N.Y. - The first day of school is always exciting for kids and their parents. But for Heather Pereira, it was stressful as well.
She didn't find out until Tuesday that her daughter, who has autism and severe epileptic seizures, would be allowed to board the school bus with her service dog.
Pereira has been working with the Gates School District for weeks to get approval for Devyn to have the service dog with her on the bus and throughout the school day.
Her daughter is non-verbal, so she also needs someone trained to handle the dog and give it commands.
She won half the battle, when the district allowed the dog to go to school. But they won't pay for a handler. They do provide an aide, but that person is not trained to handle a service dog.
For now, Pereira is paying the 350-dollars a week to pay handler, Jen Horozko, to go with Devyn and her service dog, Hannah to school.
But the single mom says she can't afford to do that for the entire school year.
She tells us the district has asked for more proof that Devyn needs a service dog for medical reasons. She has provided letters from three doctors, including the head of neurology at Strong Hospital, stating that the dog is needed for medical reasons.
Perreira is relieved Devyn was able to have a normal first day of school and that Hannah is with her for the school day. She is also glad Jen, who also watches Devyn during the evening, is there in case there is a problem or medical issue.
She has hired a lawyer to work with the district and is hoping to avoid taking this to court. But she says she will keep fighting for her daughter and to set a legal precedent, so other children like this, will be able to have service dogs and trained handlers during the school day.