Autism Service Dogs have proven to be an asset for children diagnosed with autism and their families. These dogs provide a social “bridge” for children who are often excluded by others because of their behavior or lack of social interaction. These well-trained autism service dogs can also provide comfort as well as calm children who suffer from autism. Autistic children who run away and hide can also be quickly and easily found by autism service dogs that are trained to locate them. These are just a few of the advantages of having a trained service dog to assist an autistic child.
Autism is a severe developmental disorder that affects the way a child sees and interacts with the rest of the world. It effects sensory, memory, motor and postural control. Social and communication skills may be compromised leading to social isolation both within the family and with other people. Many autistic children display a tendency to bolt in open spaces making going to a mall or a restaurant almost impossible. Many autistic children also experience difficulty sleeping and often suffer from insomnia.
Children with autism are often misunderstood because they process information in a different way. They deal with facts, not concepts, which can be a problem for parents and teachers. Because information is processed in a very detailed oriented way, the autistic person will sort through both major and minor stimuli, a car driving by, the smell of their clothing, or the sound of a dog barking to make a decision. Too many details can cause them to become overstimulated and confused by everyday situations.
The causes of autism are uncertain, but most experts feel it is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
There are countless benefits of owning an autism service dog for children and families affected by autism. These dogs are faithful companions that assist these children and families with activities of daily living as well as increasing the safety of the child and reducing the stress level of their family. Other advantages of having an Autism Service Dog include:
Increased social interaction – assistance dogs have been proven to improve social skills and social interaction for many children affected by autism. These dogs are naturally interesting which often draws the attention of the autistic child as well as others.
Redirection of repetitive behaviors – dogs can be taught to nudge a child that is performing repetitive behaviors, this touch is often all that is required to redirect the child from these behaviors.
Improved independence – autism service dogs can provide independence by allowing the child to walk with the dog as opposed to constantly holding the hand of a parent or adult. These highly skilled dogs can assist the child while under the direction of the adult
Increased vocabulary – children with autism are often noticed to have an increase in vocabulary after being paired with an assistance dog. The children seem to be more comfortable in speaking with the dog which transfers to more verbal interaction with people.
Improved quality of sleep – assistance dogs provide a certain level of comfort that can often improve a child’s ability to sleep more throughout the night.
An overall calmer environment – when performing everyday tasks, children feel less pressure working with a dog as opposed to their peers. The tactile experience of having a dog as a companion has also been proven to provide calming effects. Autistic children who work with dogs have been documented to feel less anger and experience fewer acts of aggression compared to the time before receiving an autism service dog
Recovery of lost children quickly – these autism service dogs are taught to track the child in the event that they bolt or become missing. These dogs are capable of locating the child in a variety of environments and terrain. This ability to locate the child quickly, greatly reduces the risk of serious harm.