Autism is a lifelong developmental disorder that affects the daily tasks and mental condition of children and adults. With an increasing number of people suffering from autism, treatments for autism are evolving in different areas. A special option is to use service dogs to enable autistic children (between 3 and 10 years old) to live a more independent and fulfilling life. When we think of service dogs, we will usually associate them with guide dogs for visually impaired people. In fact, service dogs have been used in various areas over the years. In addition to the deaf, people of all ages who suffer from physical disabilities, anxiety, diabetes, and autism benefit from service dogs.
A qualified autism service dog is required to undergo special training related to the handler’s activities. The aim of the dog is to provide companionship and ensure the safety of children who have autism. Most parents with an autistic kid say that familial stress is reduced with the help of autism service dogs. Read on to learn more about the benefits of having a service dog for autism.
1. Cross the road safely
Many autistic children are unaware of the dangers of the road, which can lead to accidents if parents do not keep an eye on their kid. Autism service dogs can initiate children in street manners, which is a great way to make children safer and better aware of road safety.
2. New social opportunities to make friends
Children who have autism prefer to stay indoors in their private space, but dogs are by nature social animals that require daily routines, such as walking outdoors and regular meals. Walking a service dog can provide autistic children with extra exercise options and social opportunities. The dog is a “magnet” that attracts lots of attention outside. When someone comes to ask to pet the service dog, children are forced to chat with others, which can reduce the feeling of being excluded in the unfamiliar environment that almost all autistic people have. Communication is a process of learning about sharing (your service dog) and making friends.
3. Playing games
One of the daily routines of a dog is playing, which also plays an important part for a child. Encouraging children with autism to play simple games (such as hide and seek) with their service dog is a great way to teach them what is “sharing” and “taking turns”. Also, dogs provide unconditional love and never care who wins. This helps to build a close friendship that is valuable to an autistic child.
4. Learn to plan a schedule
Children living with dogs can learn how to take care of a dog and keep the dog in a routine. For autistic children, service dogs are also their close friend who can influence their daily routine. They have to plan the schedule to feed, play, and walk the dog. This is an effective way to change their unplanned life. In addition, the introduction of a service dog greatly increases the responsibility of the children and reduces parental stress.
5. Help to overcome fear
Autistic children are sensitive and are scared of most outdoor activities, such as visiting the dentist, vaccinations, shopping, and starting school. With the companionship of a service dog, they can calm down and distract the focus from fears. The trained dogs, who put their heads in a child’s lap, bring reassuring pressure and a sense of calm, which enormously supports a child’s emotional breakdown.