The unconditional love and emotional support given by a service dog are immensely helpful to the child with autism and his or her family. By simply being there, a service dog provides the calming reassurance to its child who may be experiencing sensory overload, a common component of autism.
Many children with autism have difficulty relating to people, including their families. Some kids make strange noises, are non-verbal or engage in compulsive, repetitive behavior. These behaviors can and often do, alienate people, especially classmates who can be incredibly cruel. A service dog opens the door to social interaction because people want to pet it or ask questions. A service dog can serve as a bridge to the outside world, by being a companion providing unconditional love and support in challenging social situations.
The kindness and gentleness of the autism service dog helps a child just by being by his or her side. Our dogs are specifically trained to meet the individual needs of its child, helping the child develop social norms and reach his or her full potential.
Children with autism are often highly sensitive to their environments. That means different things to different people, but in general people with autism have unusually sensitive "sensory" systems, meaning that their senses sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste can all be easily overloaded.
Autism dogs are helpful when this occurs. The behavior of a child with sensory overload can be hands over ears, flapping of hands, spinning, tantrum or any unusual behavior that shows impulsive repetitive behaviors of discomfort.
We train our dogs to help with sensory integration and overload so the child learns to have better social engagements. The dogs can understand the change in the pattern of the child and sense the child's need for help. We train the dog to circle the child which allows for the child not to bolt; the dog will find a hand and nuzzle it so the child re-directs his actions and strokes the dog; the dog may compress it's body to the child for comfort and may nudge the child to get his focus to the dog rather than the discomforting environment.
Wandering and a lack of awareness regarding personal safety, which may result in a child walking into traffic, are also key behavioral aspects of autism. Autism service dogs are trained to keep a child from bolting. Ultimately, the child holds a handle from the dog’s harness and an adult holds the leash.
As a family gets involved with the customized training, we want a child to become self-sufficient. By incorporating that ideal, the child will be trained to be responsible for the safety of the dog, hence, one's self with adult supervision if needed.
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