SERVICE DOGS FOR AUTISM
The Service Dog -- The Bridge between Autism and the World by Beth Bradley
Dogs have been proven to be an asset for children diagnosed with autism and their families. These dogs provide a social "bridge" for children who are often secluded by others because of their behavior or lack of social interaction. These well-trained dogs can also provide comfort as well as calm children who suffer from autism. Children with Autism who run away or hide can also be quickly and easily found by service dogs that are trained to locate them. These are just a few of the advantages of having a trained service dog to assist a child with Autism.
Other advantages of having an Autism Service Dog are:
• Increased social interaction – service dogs have shown to improve the interpersonal skills of children on the autism spectrum. Since the dog itself is naturally social, this trait draws the attention of the autistic child as well as his/her peers.
• Redirecting repetitive behaviors – Dogs can be taught to interrupt a child exhibiting repetitive behaviors. The dog’s touch is often all that is needed for the individual to redirect from this activity.
• Improved independence - 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 on the autism spectrum become more verbal after being paired with a service dog.
• Improved quality of sleep - service dogs provide a level of comfort that can often improve a child’s ability to sleep through the night.
• Overall calming ability - 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. Children with Autism who work with dogs have been documented to feel less anger and exhibit fewer acts of aggression once they are paired with a service dog.
• Recovering children quickly - these service dogs are taught to track the child in the event that they bolt or wander off. 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.