Many people only consider service dogs for those who are blind or bound to a wheelchair. However, service dogs serve a variety of functions for a vast array of individuals. One area that is relatively new for service animals is assisting those who suffer with Autism. According to Autism Speaks, Autism is impacts one in every 110 children in the United States. The rate increases for males, to one in 70 boys.
One of the many possible means of assistance to Autistic children is the use of service dogs. Much like a seeing eye dog for the blind, Autism service dogs assist with daily living for Autistic children. Service dogs can be trained to meet a number of specific needs that apply specifically to Autistic children. The following is partial list of the multiple benefits that service dogs can provide.
Autistic children often stray or wander away from their parents. Such straying can be incredibly dangerous. The fact that most Autistic children do not understand danger makes such straying even more dangerous. Service dogs can be trained to help corral the child with the parents or alert the parents to the possibility of wandering behavior. Autistic children can also be tethered to their service animal to provide added security for the child.
Provide sensory stimulation
Sensory integration is a common problem for Autistic children. Sensory processing disorder creates disconnection between the sensory organs and the brain. Autistic children struggle with either having too much sensory input and not enough sensory input. Many Autistic children have a problem with adapting to their surroundings due to heightened sensory input. Service dogs are trained to help calm the Autistic child when they are dealing with sensory overload. The animals are also trained to provide additional sensory stimulation in times when input is needed.
Stop disruptive conduct
Autistic children often have behavior that would create disruptions in various social settings. One such behavior is stimming. Stimming is the constant tapping of an item, rocking back and forth or hand flapping. The self stimulating conduct of Autistic children can become disruptive and distracting. Service dogs can be trained to give the child a gentle nudge to redirect such behaviors.
Increase social interaction
Autism causes individuals who suffer from the disorder to struggle in social situations. Autistic children often appear reclusive but the reality is that they simply are unable to actively engage in social interaction. Service dogs can help Autistic children by providing a source of increased socialization. Service dogs can create social interaction by drawing increased attention to the child and create opportunities for the child to engage individuals.
Assist with daily structure
Much of daily life is a series of transitions from one activity to another. Transitioning from one activity to another is not difficult for most children. However, children who suffer from Autism have a great deal of difficulty making these transitions. Autistic children often have a difficulty adjusting in various environments but a service dog can make such adjustments much easier. Service dogs provide an ongoing sense of stability by being a constant for the child to rely on.
Autism impacts not only the lives of those who suffer from the disorder but also the entire family. Service dogs can provide a needed assistance to Autistic children and the families dealing with the disorder. Service dogs provide a number of benefits for Autistic children such as social interaction, sensory input and increased structure. While there is no cure for Autism, service dogs can provide much needed assistance to Autistic children and their families.