Autism Service Dogs
For a child with autism, the world out there feels a little bit safer when accompanied
by a dog. Public experiences such as grocery stores and movie theaters often no
longer seem as threatening. Walking into a crowded mall is not as overwhelming as
it used to be and with the reduced anxiety, amusement parks can even be fun.
Because of the dog's ability to calm a child, school and therapy sessions can be
more productive. With the assistance of an individually placed Service Dog, or a
Facility Dog that serves a greater number of children, any emotional outbursts or
perseverative behaviors can often be shortened or curtailed altogether. Many children
with autism learn best with a system of motivators and rewards. Incorporating the
dog into this system increases a child's interest and commitment, resulting in greater
Sometimes words begin as the child's desire to communicate with the dog unfolds.
Or the child works through the difficulty of fine motor skills to effectively cue
the dog with hand signals, or manipulate a specially designed iPad. Gross motor
skills can improve as the child's urge to play with the dog increases.
At the park, in the library, or just getting an ice cream, many times the dog is
a calling card for connection. A foundation of positive social experiences creates
an increased desire for engagement. Often the dog incites an eagerness for increased
responsibility and independence in the child. The dog needs to be walked, to be
fed, to be brushed and the water bowl has to be changed. Above all the dog wants
to be loved. Empathy is perhaps the sweetest outcome of some of these relationships
between dog and child.