In the United States there are currently over 88 million children on the autism spectrum. Autism is a complex brain disorder order causing many symptoms which can hinder social interaction, communication skills and may cause repetitive behaviors. This disease has been associated with intellectual disorders, difficulties with motor control, attention issues, sleep problems, and even gastrointestinal disturbances.
The world can be a very scary place for a child living with autism. Their senses can either be on overdrive or turned down too low. Noises, sights, smells and movement can be very overwhelming and cause intense confusion. It’s a world full of loud disorienting chaos that can lead to feelings of anxiety and isolation. With a dog by one’s side, an autism assistance dog can help by giving them a focal point, or a way to ground their random, unceasing environmental experiences.
Any dog lover knows and understands the therapeutic benefits you get from spending time with your pooch. Most people also understand how canines offer services to the physically disabled. It’s no surprise that canines can be a life changing companion to a child with autism.
A therapy dog can be an amazing calming companion. Children with autism often have mild to severe emotional outbursts. These dogs are trained to remain calm and let the child hug and pet them for comfort. It is also common to develop repetitive movements or mannerisms. These can be powerful and last for long periods at a time. A loyal well-trained service dog can to hug has been shown to decrease these symptoms; these dogs have also been trained to recognize the onset of these symptoms and intervene to interrupt the behaviors. This may not be viable for all autistic child-dog partnerships, but it has been demonstrated to work in many cases.
“She helps me, she calms me down, she lets me know she’s there when I’m about to have a melt-down. Anybody who has autism, anybody in the world would just benefit from this. She’s just like a healing dog.”-Parker Weishaar, an 11-year-old boy diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, in an interview with CBS News
Children with autism often like to wonder. They can be pulled to certain stimuli and easily get lost. Therapy dogs are trained to keep these kiddos safe. They will bark and circle the child, to alert the family they have gone too far. This can truly be a life saving technique.
Finally, a therapy dog can be a child’s “soul mate”. Autism can be very lonely, social skills are often very challenging. These dogs provide much needed companionship by forming that special bond with their owner. Just having the comfort of your furry best friend by their side, offers many emotional benefits and helps ward of anxiety and depression.
Living with autism comes with many challenges to both the child and the caretakers. Special trained service dogs never pass judgment; they offer unconditional loving support that has been proven to both manage autism symptoms and improve quality of life.