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What do Autism Therapy Dogs Do?

May 29th, 2018
What do Autism Therapy Dogs Do?

How Can a Dog Help Those Afflicted with Autism?

A teenager walks through the crowded corridors of a school accompanied by a pooch who helps him maneuver through the crowd and locate his class. In another situation, a family has dinner at a famous restaurant with a dog laying patiently at their feet. You might have also come across a young lady sitting in a chair, holding her cheek while she wears a sullen face. But as soon as the dog sits on her laps and begins applying deep pressure to release tension, she becomes cheery and continues with her daily routine. All these are instances of autism service dogs in action.

Like many other service dogs, autism assistance pooches are trained to carry out specific activities on behalf of their owners. Ideally, these dogs go everywhere their human companions go so they can offer aid when the need arises. Autism-related disorders cause the victims to have poor communication and social interaction skills. Autism therapy dogs help such individuals navigate the world in a much simpler way.

Who Qualifies for Autism Therapy Dogs?

As long as you’ve been diagnosed with autism or an autism spectrum disorder, you have a right to own a service dog based on your specific needs. The majority of organizations in the U.S. train and place these dogs to families with autistic kids.

What Do Autism Assistance Dogs Do?

Autism is a kind of spectrum disorder. Put simply; a spectrum disorder is characterized by inabilities to communicate and interact socially with others. One thing to keep in mind is that there are different kinds of autism. It means that autism service dogs are trained to provide aid depending on where the patient falls on the spectrum.

emotional support dog with young child

Children

The primary role of an autism service dog is to guarantee the safety of the kids they work with. These dogs help autistic toddlers with a ton of activities as explained below:

Wandering away

A majority of kids who are autistic have a tendency to wander off from their parents or caregivers. This is not unusual and it happens if the victim is deeply engrossed in thoughts. They could also run away if they feel overwhelmed or overstimulated by their current surroundings. Autism therapy dogs help resolve this in two key ways.

For one, the pooch can wear a unique harness attached to the autistic kid. This way, even if the caregiver is disrupted by a secretary who wants a check written or to receive a call, the child won’t end up wandering off. Some of these pooches are even trained to sit down or stand still and defy orders in case the child wanders too far off.

Secondly, autism service dogs are taught how to track their owners. In case the child wanders off, this dog will notify a caregiver of the child’s whereabouts. This helps to save time; hence, find the child much faster. Sometimes taking too long to find an autistic child can lead to devastating situations.

Sleeping

One problem that autistic kids encounter is getting difficulty sleeping in their beds by themselves. But with a dog’s company, it will be much easier for this child to relax and sleep. Having a dog nearby also gives the child’s parents a peace of mind. They can sleep soundly knowing that if anything goes amiss, the dog will alert them.

Discomfort with touch

Another area where autism service dogs are really beneficial is providing a warm and calm environment. This comes in handy for autistic kids who find it challenging to give and receive forms of affection; be it hugs, kisses, and simple pecks. Nonetheless, these kids have a much easier time making physical contact with their dogs. Eventually, these children feel confident enough to instigate these behaviors with their parents or caregivers.

Stability and calmness

As stated earlier, the biggest challenge that autistic children encounter is having poor social interaction skills. Often, when they’re in big crowds, they feel overwhelmed, and this can lead to negative reactions. An autism service dog can act as an anchor of consistency, stable energy, and calmness. Based on research studies, autistic children have been found to have fewer emotional outbursts when they’re in the company of dogs.

Friendship

Autistic children have one of the hardest times when it comes to forming a connection with the peers or even caregivers. And since they’re likely to behave differently, other people in the society treat them like outcasts. The good thing is that autism therapy dogs won’t treat your child any differently. These pooches will play with them, sit on your kid’s laps, climb up to their beds and more. Ideally, the autism service dog is the best companion your kid will ever have.

Adults

Autism therapy dogs are not just trained to help children but also adults diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The same way dogs are trained to provide special assistance to the deaf, they can also be trained to alert their owners to important noises or other events that require human intervention. These include things like a smoke alarm, a crying baby, a cell phone ringing or a knock on your door. Autistic adults have difficulty identifying the specific external stimuli that require immediate attention. Usually, these persons have to sort through major and petty stimuli- the sound of crickets, the smell of cookies and a car driving past- so as to determine which particular activity, if any, calls for their attention.

The way autism therapy dogs are trained to help is by sitting on the owners’ feet, then exerting pressure if their handles are feeling anxious. This way, the autistic person feels relief and calm.

Wrap Up

An autism therapy dog is of great benefit to persons diagnosed with autism, whether adults or kids. These dogs utilize their social instincts and learned social skills to bring these individuals emotional support and sensory interventions. With an autism service dog, an autistic child is less likely to wander off. And even if he does, the dog will track him down. These dogs also help such persons to sleep better, form friendships and remain calm.