Little girl sitting on the grass with golden retriever in the summer park

There have been so many recent studies linking the positive effect of animals in general to the socialization and anxiety often accompanying those on the Autism Spectrum. It seems that dogs, however, win the lottery when it comes to servicing the needs of our most sensitive and gifted children. Autism Service Dogs go far beyond play and assistance with emotional overload. A recent article atPubMed.gov shows that sensory issues, spacial awareness and empathy are more evident in children bonding with dogs, in particular, autism service dogs.

The natural inclination of parents is to shield their child from difficult situations. Parents are often overwhelmed with a “child” who may remain a “child” into adulthood or beyond. These service dogs take a load from heavily burdened shoulders and provide a break for parents. Evidently, the assistance and gentle behavior of these animals, proves to assist children in the very “loud” world in which they function. The ability to tune out the noise of life and cope with extraordinary sensory input is widely varied for each child on the spectrum. Some may need headphones, ear plugs or sun glasses just to get through a normal school day. In many cases, if the overload becomes too overwhelming, a child “melts down”. In considering a therapy dog, parents must evaluate the individual child’s sensitivity. If sensory hearing is difficult, a quieter breed of dog or other animal is necessitated.

Each dog goes through a strict evaluation before consideration as an Autism Therapy Dog. Organizations like the Autism Service Dog Association are one of a handful of accredited and notable organizations that provide service animals to adoption organizations nationwide. These animals are specifically trained to sense “meltdowns”, anxiety or even more serious complications of autism, such as seizures. They also provide calm, unconditional love to these children. This of course comes with lots of doggy “kisses”.

Personal safety is not a concept that “typical” autistic children understand. Their spacial awareness and intuition of dangerous situations are often compromised. Project Chance is yet another organization which focuses on assisting severely autistic children with daily tasks and safety. These dogs are trained to “touch” the child during emotional out-bursts or unsafe situations, helping the child to recognize danger and maintain calm during stressful situation. Project Chance as well as ASDA are non-profit organizations. Their mission is of compassion and love for these amazing, bright, children often overlooked because of their quirks.

Considering a dog is a big decision for any family. Aspects of family life, home and space are a big deal! Many families fail to adopt an assistance animal because they do not have a simple fence in their yard where both dog and child remain safe. Wandering is a major component of autism so fences are necessary, but many times unaffordable. An amazing organization that assists with these needs is AdysArmy. This organization assists with the provision of trained service dogs to autistic children. However another amazing subset of this group is Adys Barracks. Their function is to assist families with fencing! This donation funded aspect continues to offer hope for families who wish for both a service dog and a safe space for animal and child.

Hopefully the objections for any parent wishing to obtain an assistance dog are overcome with these amazing organizations. Continued donations and awareness help facilitate belly rubs, tail wags, and kisses for many years to come. These kids will definitely relate that autism service dogs are autism licking good!

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