Research from the University of Lincoln found that children with autism experience fewer meltdowns in the presence of a pet dog and their parents stress levels are significantly lowered, but we also see that dogs can make a difference to confidence levels, help reduce anxiety, improve communication and help families.
If one observes animals, dogs in particular, one can learn from the basics as needed without words, confusing side issues and contradictions. Nature at last got feedback from overstressed due to overpopulation, and as socializing leads quite easily to babies. Nature switched that nonsense to a lower level. This means for autists having to learn from that lower level to find better adapted processes that nature can write into the DNA to pass on genetically.
There’s quite a lot of useful things to aid the development of an autistic child. Pets definitely can be one of them, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a pet trained for therapeutic needs either. Animals trained for therapy can be useful if the child has a history of running away or running into dangerous situations. But most autistic children won’t need that level of intensive care. Thrive and keep them safe.
You also need to be aware of what that sort of therapy can do to the child. I hope you’re not one of those who think that they can hope to erase the autism from their child, because that’s just unrealistic. The aim of pet therapy is to support that person in their development, whether it’s a pet to keep them company, safe, calm them down after a stressful day or sensory input.
And that should be the aim of therapy for the autistic person, making sure they’re happy and developing their own way into functioning adult Emmy TGIRT lay on her back in a wagon pulled by her parents, face buried in blankets. She had headphones on because she hates loud noises, a symptom of her down syndrome and autism.
Then a slobbery kiss from a rescue dog named Little Bear changed everything. The instant expression of joy on her eleven year old daughter’s face was something that Sherry Tiger had never seen before. I teared up because of the huge smile on Emmy’s face and focus, Tiger said. You don’t see that with Emmy very much. The initial interaction was just neat to see.
She was just happy and excited to play. It was moving. We prayed about it for a long time. To TGIRT that first meeting between her daughter and the dog that would become her constant companion felt like fate. The SpruceGrove girl is nonverbal and often grows frustrated in social interactions.
Her parents struggled to help her overcome anxiety. We always felt like a therapy dog would be an amazing way to help Emmy stay calm and focused, said Tiger. She really has a lot of issues with being dysregulated, anxiety and OCD, and anything can trigger it. Loud noises very busy environments. School is a challenge with her.
The family had been searching for a service animal for a long time before Amy started attending school. They were prepared to file an application four years ago, but with another baby on the way, the timing wasn’t right. They decided to hold off, not realizing that some families can wait up to five years for a certified service dog. By the time they revisited the idea, many agencies were overwhelmed with demand and no longer accepting applications, Tiger said. We felt like we had missed this amazing opportunity.
We were feeling blessed. Despite their daughter’s anxiety with crowds, they took her to the Edmonton Pet Expo, an annual trade show that showcases animal welfare agencies from across the province. They felt drawn to the booth run by Infinite Wolf’s Animal Rescue Society. That’s where they first encountered Little Bear. Emmy had met other dogs before, but this was different.
She got up from her wagon, smiled, fed the dog treats and squealed with laughter. In that moment, they decided to adopt Little Bear, a seven month old stray found running loose on a Northern Alberta reserve last summer. A volunteer was moved by their story, so the agency decided to cover the family’s adoption fees. Another person who had applied to take the dog home canceled out to speed up the process. We’re feeling blessed and kind of in awe and part of something bigger, said Tiger.
It’s been just amazing. We’re so thankful. It’s like Little Bear has this intuition. The connection between the little girl and her dog is something eyewars. Volunteer Nikki Perin will always remember seeing the impact Bear has on Emmy to play focus and most importantly, the huge smiles is truly incredible, Perin said.
I feel so blessed to be a part of bringing these two together. As the animal rescue agency’s dog foster manager, Perin has overseen hundreds of successful adoptions. But as she dropped the dog off at the T Group at home Tuesday afternoon, it became clear that Emmy and Little Bear share something special. Bear actually pulled me up to the house and Emmy couldn’t stop smiling and snuggling. Her parents said.
I always cry. But this time it wasn’t at the thought of missing her, but at the beautiful new relationship between a little girl and her dog. Little Bear is already part of the family. When Emmy gets overwhelmed, instead of screaming in frustration, she now crawls over to her dog for comfort. Now she’s seeking out the dog, and Bear will just lay down on her and she just snuggles her head into Bear’s fur, said Tiger.
Emmy calms right down. Her whole demeanor changes. It’s just amazing. It’s like Bear has this intuition. Autism Does Not Require Treatment Some symptoms and comorbidities of autism might require treatment.
For example, speech therapy, ADHD alternative treatments are generally not evidence based and are usually a waste of time and money. Controlling diet is only a treatment for dietary problems. Don’t put your autistic child on a special diet unless your child has a medically diagnosed dietary condition. Note that many artists are fatty eaters and introducing a special diet will cause additional stress and frustration, even when medically necessary. Don’t make an additional Rod for your own back.
A companion dog is an aid, not a treatment. A companion animal is not a pet, but a trained animal. Do not give an autistic child a companion animal unless a he or she has needs that can be met by a companion animal and is receptive to having one, and B you are prepared to cater to the exercise, feeding, grooming and veterinary needs of the animal because the child may not be capable of doing so. Do not give an autistic child a pet unless you want a pet of your own. My son, who is only mildly autistic, high functioning, passes for almost neurotypical, loves animals but is not really capable of caring for a pet.
He terrifies cats and annoys dogs by being overly demonstrative and has no insight into their behavior or needs beyond basic feeding. Getting a service dog is not like getting a puppy from the pound. It costs hundreds of manhours and something on the order of $30,000 to train a service dog, and the waitlists are long. You can be sure that if a service dog will not help, a service dog will not be placed with your family. If a service dog will help, it does not matter if your child especially likes dogs or even if your child is afraid of dogs.
People are afraid of doctors and of assistive devices and of all kinds of things. They need to be healthy and get through life and this just has to be worked through. If you need it, then you need it. Service dogs for autism range in their training depending on the needs of the person and the training process both before and after a dog is placed goes on for some time.
In general, the dogs can serve to stop self injurious behaviors, to alert to stimming so the person can decide whether or not to stop, to lead the person away from dangerous situations, to provide deep pressure or lay on top of the person in case of a meltdown, to counterbalance or steady for people who have poor motor control, to bring people home when they become disoriented, to prevent wandering off or get help in case of wandering off, alert to important sounds in loud places.
People who need service dogs are not getting a pet or a companion. They’re getting the services of a professional, just as with other working dogs, police or fire dogs, and so forth. Usually the person with a service dog does not own the dog and the dog is replaced. At a certain age and retired, they are highly desirable pets, so don’t worry, they get very good homes in general. Nevertheless, the use of working dogs for children is a relatively new phenomenon and its rise is primarily related to autism.