The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) describes Autism Disorder the following way:
“Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less.”
People who are affected by ASD qualify for service dogs and should talk with their preferred health professional about using a service dog to improve their well-being and daily routine. Service dogs can be trained to address a person’s needs and requirements in the context of where they are in the Autism Spectrum Disorder. A specially trained Autism Service Dog is hard to come by and many people may end up waiting 2 or more years for their Autism Service Dog to enter their life. Moreover, people affected by ASD are usually part of a three-part team consisting of a child, one of their parents, and the service dog. Hence, a parent might need to dedicate almost their entire day to taking care of the child and the dog. Please note that Autism Service Dogs are available for adults as well and can help improve social connections between the user and their friends, colleagues at work and potentially assist in making new friends.
Having a service dog keep company and attend to a child is something many parents should consider as it will provide invaluable emotional support to them, ensure they have a friend close by at all times, and even help with locating the child should the need arise. Children with Autism who are prone to wandering off can benefit from a dog to keep them company and the dog can be equipped with a GPS tracking tag on their collar so they can be both found when necessary. Many children with ASD have trouble expressing emotions, interest in things around them, and interpreting emotional cues. Having the child participate in the care of the dog should help improve their discipline, ability to focus, sense of routine, and help build their confidence. These are key areas for the future development of people who struggle with Autism. I should add that the Autism Service Dogs can be trained to interrupt repetitive behaviors which can be a great help to parents who might find it very difficult to deal with this sort of situation.
Please make sure to talk with your mental health professional about using a service dog and potentially training one yourself. As mentioned above, this type of service dog is usually acquired from a school and there are long waiting lists, however, you can train your own Autism Service Dog at home as long as you have the necessary training course and guidance. Citizens based in the US, the UK, and parts of Canada have been taking advantage of the local legislation that enables them to train their own service dogs.
You should take into consideration that if you proceed with an owner/self-training course you will need time, motivation to learn, and a dog that is blessed with a calm character and friendly disposition. The indisputable advantages of the owner/self-training are that the financial cost will be several times lower compared to on-site dog training schools, you can take a dog of breed you like (most schools work with one or two breeders) and you will not have to be put on a waiting list.