Autism Assistance Dogs

May 11, 2016

Dog owners live by the adage that, “Dogs are man’s best friend.” To many this is a gross understatement. Dogs go far beyond a best friend for many people in our society. Some dogs assist owners who are blind, while others help people who suffer from anxiety and depression. Still others visit nursing homes and hospitals as a part of their “careers” as assistance dogs. But of all the jobs that dogs can have, being an autism assistance dog is by far the most unique. Unlike the guide dog who helps with physical tasks, the autism assistance dog is there more for emotional support. Project Chance, an autism service dog organization, explains that dogs are excellent companions. “By simply being there, a solid, sound and reassuring companion, dogs can help ease sensory overload, which is a common challenge for those with autism.” Let’s look at the benefits of autism assistance dogs.

  • Trained assistance dogs can be the link between a child with autism and the world around them.This can increase both independence and social interactions for a child who struggles in these areas.
  • The kindness and gentleness of the autism assistance dog helps the child by just being there – no matter what sounds, gestures or repetitive motions the child is engaging in.
  • Assistance dogs can keep children safe from “bolting” in public or getting lost. Most children with autism have no concept of personal safety, and can wander outdoors and into traffic.
  • Dogs can help with repetitive and injurious behaviors. Dogs can be tasked-trained to use touch intervention, as well as pressure intervention and mobility assistance when these repetitive or self-injurious behaviors occur.
  • Dogs are social animals and can help autistic children brave social situations that they would normally be fear producing or have high anxiety around.
  • Dogs can improve quality of sleep. Assistance dogs provide a certain level of comfort that can often improve a a child’s ability to sleep more throughout the night. They become a comfort item that will help with sleep and anxiety.
  • Dogs are calming animals. 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 assistance dog.
  • Studies have found that children with assistance doigs also increase their level of vocabulary since they tend to feel more comfortable speaking with a dog.

Talk to your therapists about the options available for pet assisted therapy for your child.