It’s always said that a dog is a man’s best friend. Have you ever wondered what that means, though? Sure, dogs can provide companionship, protection, and many comical memories. However, there’s more.
Dogs have been discovered to provide invaluable services to the human race, particularly the neurodivergent community. Autism Service Dogs, or Assistance Dogs as they’re also known, have been supporting Autistic children all over the world.
Before we list the benefits of an Autism service dog for adults or children, let’s consider key characteristics of service dogs and what their responsibilities include.
What Defines Autism Assistance Dogs?
Not all dogs are service dogs or assistance dogs. There’s a certain temperament needed to train the perfect Autism assistance dogs. The ideal service dogs are friendly, intelligent, loving, calm, and most importantly, enjoy working. This is because the tasks service dogs carry out include:
Moving unconscious persons to public spaces.
Sounding alarms for dangerous situations.
Going on walks and being in public often.
Coming into contact with many persons.
Being alert and observational.
What Breeds Make The Best Dogs for Autism Behaviour Therapy?
Common breeds for service dogs include German Shepherds, Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Great Danes, Boxers and Pomeranians. These dogs are bred and trained specially for their unique calling and service. Common family pets and pets available in pet shops or local animal shelters are not sufficient in quality service standards and specifications to serve. For this reason, you may have to research and contact a local specialist in an assistance dog to match the perfect dog for children who are autistic.
What are the Benefits of Dogs for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism service dogs for adults and children are a great intervention strategy for anyone autistic, but more so an autistic child. That’s because these dogs, being service trained, assist immensely with helping autistic people improve their social communication skills. Using a service dog for your child will help their confidence, self-esteem, peer relationships, and social skills. Here are 4 specific benefits below of Autism Service Dogs:
These assistance dogs help ensure the entire family gets well-needed sleep – children with Autism Spectrum Disorder often struggle with falling asleep or staying asleep. This may have parents up at odd hours of the night trying to calm their child, so he or she can go to sleep. Assistance dogs that help autistic children regulate their emotions, calm down and fall into a bedtime routine contribute enormously to easing parents’ burden. Especially when ensuring their child has a good night’s sleep – often to the result of them not getting much!
Service Dogs help in autism elopement – There is nothing more tragic than losing a young family member. People with Autism are known to elope when they struggle to process their emotions or suffer from sensory overload. Autism elopement often leaves the parent with an added responsibility for constantly monitoring a child’s whereabouts. The ones in training learn to immediately alert family members of imminent elopement and hunt down a missing child, thus reuniting and keeping the family together.
How Do They Help Families of Kids With Autism?
Service Dogs allow for other family members a bit more spare time for themselves. Parents, siblings and grandparents may not fully be alleviated from the responsibility of monitoring and supervising their child. They may receive a bit more spare time to focus on their own personal activities than a service dogs presence. The reason for this is twofold: service dogs use their team training to alert others if a threat is looming, and also, they draw the attention of the child with Autism in pet-owner bonding time, which safely occupies the child for a time long enough for parents to squeeze in a quick chore or phone call.
Service Dogs can keep families from divorce and splitting due to the camaraderie and companionship they provide. There are hundreds of families who have broken apart permanently due to the stresses and pressures of caring for a special needs child. Husband and wives don’t have time for each other and neglect the marriage due to the special needs that need meeting for the child. Service dogs can help by providing emotional support, a spirit of love and laughter, and extreme sentimental value to the child. By extension, the family allows for other relationships within the family to be healed, repaired and focused on. For example, while the child and the dog are occupied bonding and playing safely, it gives time for a quick at-home date night for husband and wife.
Having a service dog in the house gives emotional support to all members of the household. While the service dog belongs primarily to the child with Autism, chances are the dog will be interacting with and giving lots of love to the rest of the family members.
Research states that animals serve as a mood booster, helping alleviate conditions such as depression, anxiety, fear, worry, and many other mental health conditions. Larger breeds help with deep pressure therapy, where sitting on a child’s lap can provide a great sense of comfort.
They also soften the heart and allow others to build values such as empathy and compassion, which would then be used in other life areas. It really is a win for the entire family and not just the child for whom the services are provided.
Autism Service Dogs Benefit The Lives of Everyone
Autism service dogs possess life skills for improving the quality of family life for families looking after a person with Autism. The more time children bond with their service dogs, the more they know what love, joy, care, compassion, empathy and cherishing loved ones mean to each other. These skills are then transferred to a child’s relationship with their parents, siblings, grandparents and others, making for stronger family relationships and secure emotional attachments.
As you can see, the value of owning an assistance dog goes much more than saving a life or protecting people from harm. They contribute to the core of a family’s heart and have a positive impact on everyone! Treat them with care and let them bring improved quality of life your family deserves. If you haven’t yet got one already, please contact a local agency that can help you decide if this arrangement would be good for you, and get yourself on the waiting list!
Depending on where you are, a diagnosis of Autism is needed to be eligible for a service dog. The animal should still be considered a family member of any household, even if you do not have a diagnosis. However, it is important to remember they are not well-trained for the situation.
Until next time!