Updated: Jun 20
If you are familiar with guide dogs for the blind or hearing dogs for the deaf, don't know that dogs can help people with autism in so many ways?
A great article by Breed Advisor explains how these wonderful dogs can change lives in five incredible ways.
It is possible for autism to cause ritualistic or repetitive behaviors. A situation that is too much to handle can sometimes lead to this. If the person is non-verbal, then it means that they can’t tell someone they need help.
An Autism Assistance dog can be trained to notice these behaviors and intervene. An example would be placing a paw on their person or nudging them with their nose. Dogs and handlers develop a deep bond that enables them to intervene or stop harmful behavior much more easily than if someone else attempted to do so.
Help with Safety
Children with autism may not respond to their names, and often they don’t really understand all the dangers that may be lurking in their environment. So, for example, a car heading in their direction may not cause them to quickly move out of the way.
It is at this point that a tether system comes into play. It's either attached to the child's belt or backpack, or they hold the leash connected to their autism service dog. For safety, the main leash is always held by the parent, but for the child, holding the leash seems to provide both security and boundaries. Keeping them safe also reduces their temptation to wander.
The constant presence of an amazing and specially trained dog can provide a calming focus for someone with autism. Being with a familiar companion can be very comforting when everything else is unfamiliar.
Whether it's attending classes, visiting a physician, or going to new places, an autism service dog can help children and adults overcome anxieties.
Assistance with Meltdowns
An autistic meltdown can happen when the person feels overwhelmed and then struggles to cope. Although they can look like a tantrum, with tears and struggles, they’re really not.
Providing a calming touch is one of the ways that Autism Service Dogs help. In order to do this, they can use deep pressure stimulation, which can be caused by the weight of the service dog. It could be a small assistance dog lying on the person's chest or a large dog placing its head on the person's lap. When the nervous system is overstimulated, this type of contact can calm it.
In addition to kinetic engagement, the service dog can be touched to help. It can come from direct contact (stroking the dog's fur gently) or indirect contact through grooming, which can have such a soothing effect.
Many people with autism have difficulty communicating. Others may use a tablet to communicate with others, while others may never speak. It is possible for individuals who are able to talk to have times when they cannot communicate in that manner.
Autism Service Dogs can be a great messenger for people with autism. By carrying a written message or fetching the tablet when requested, you can accomplish this. Suddenly, there is a sense of hearing their 'voice'.
There are many ways in which dogs can benefit us. If you need assistance along your Autism Journey, you might consider autism service dogs.