BOLTING: One common thing that many Autism Service Dogs do is offer peace of mind for children and their families by keeping a child tethered in public places. This helps to prevent the child from running off or running in front of an automobile. Often the child is tethered to the dog and the parent/handler holds the dog’s leash. This usually fosters a new found sense of independence and empowerment for the child. Just having two hands free to conduct mundane activities like paying for groceries, or holding a purse is a new found luxury for the caregivers/parents. The Autism Service Dog can be trained to anchor to the floor should the child suddenly bolt away from the service dog and parent/handler.
WANDERING: Some Autism Service Dogs are trained to track the scent of, hold, retrieve, or find a child who wanders or runs away.
PICA: Some children with Autism Spectrum Disorders eat things that they should not, such as: dirt, clay, chalk, feces, sand, crayons, pencils, etc. Autism Service Dogs can halt or redirect this undesirable behavior.
SELF HARMING: Many individuals on the Autism Spectrum do various self injurious behaviors such as: scratching, biting, head banging, etc. A service dog can be trained to halt or divert this behavior. An Autism Service Dog typically reduces acts of aggression.
FIRE SAFETY: When a smoke detector activates, a dog may be trained to lead the child to the front door or fire exit.
ANXIETY/MELTDOWNS/AGITATION/SENSORY OVERLOAD/NIGHTMARES: Most people on the Autism Spectrum Disorder experience various anxiety manifestations such as outbursts, tantrums, night terrors, or screaming. An Autism Service Dog can be trained to crawl into the lap of the child or to nudge and redirect or even to give deep pressure or affection to halt the behavior. This often assists the child in all areas of their lives including academics and socialization.
SNEAKING/ESCAPING: Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders are commonly very adept at escaping their homes or sneaking away from their safe environments. Their service dog may be trained to sleep next to/guard the child. This can provide a peace of mind and quality of sleep for the entire family that was not previously possible.
STIMMING: Many people with Autism Spectrum Disorders engage in various self-stimulating behaviors including: hand flapping, spinning, rocking, making repetitive vocal sounds, or unusual finger movements. An Autism Service Dog may halt, divert, or redirect these behaviors as well.
GLUTEN SNIFFING: Autism Service Dogs can even sometimes be trained to sniff out gluten for individuals with gluten sensitivities.
LOVE/WARMTH/SECURITY: Often the need for love, warmth and security are paramount for a child on the Autism Spectrum. While all children needs these things, the “neediness” of these individuals is often so intense that it becomes nearly impossible for parents to satisfy all of the child’s’ needs in these areas. Many children who formerly required their parents’ constant attention or who viewed a parent as a “security item or transitional object” no longer are as dependent with the aid of a service dog. The Service Dog may provide the emotional and physical support needed for more independent sleep, bathing, dressing, waiting in lines, taking of transportation (school buses, subways, buses, vans, airplanes, shuttles, cars, boats, ferries) and a multitude of other activities that caused stress or required a person or object to offer support in the past.
An Autism Service Dog often becomes a social bridge for individuals on the Autism Spectrum. Many times, our recipients who have social deficits, suddenly become a popular person at school or college because the service dog helps break social barriers and takes the focus off of the individual’s disability.
These same Autism Service Dogs often decrease self absorption in their partner, assist/support their partner in being able to face fearful environments/procedures, increase their partner’s ability to try new things/routines, while the Autism Service Dog remains a loyal companion, non-judgmental friend, and fosters independence, empowerment, and responsibility.
This is not, by any means, an exhaustive list of every skill an Autism Service Dog can or will be trained to perform.
“Dogs are not our whole life but they make our lives whole.”–Roger Caras