Autism: Educational Tool

An Autism Service Dog can be used by the teacher, used as a teaching tool, or even the dog can be a teacher.

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Autism Service Dogs: Educational Tool 

A Service Dog can be used as an educational tool for children with autism in three ways:

Teaching tool

  • Since the dog attracts the child's attention in so strongly, working with the dog can be a great way of learning language. As the parent tells the dog to sit, or stay, or "No", the child learns through observation.

  • A Service Dog can be used as a teaching tool (either in class or in general life) to: Help change a child's focus

  • Calm anxiety

  • Capture their attention

  • As a prop for teaching, helping the child stay focused on the lesson being taught.

  • Since the child with autism is so often focused on inanimate objects, rather than people, teaching the child can be a difficult task. A child will often focus on their Service Dog, though, and since the dog is moving around and doing things, the dog can provide great opportunities for teaching, at all sorts of times during the day.

  • As the child learns to take care of the and teach the dog, the child learns empathy.

The dog as teacher

  • Children along the spectrum often have difficulty pulling their attention away from inanimate objects, and parents can often have difficulty with the slow, patient, coaxing that is needed. A Service Dog, however, is bonded to the child and over and over again, gently pulls the child's attention away from inanimate objects. A trained Service Dog, with its ability to sense social cues, is a sensitive teacher, and a child with autism finds the dog difficult to ignore and thus is then brought out of their "mindblindness".

  • Instead of a parent pointedly interrupting a child's obsession with the inanimate world (in order to teach the child about the random nature of the world), a Service Dog's interesting interruptions serves the same purpose, and with a natural good nature that is always unforced.

  • Becoming part of a group. Children with autism often have difficulty with the concept of being in a group, but as a dog-child team, the child can learn that they are part of their own group, with its own membership rules.

  • Teaching forgiveness (a two-way street). Dogs are much simpler than people, and when a dog needs forgiveness, the actions and reactions are simpler to understand.The child with autism learns to forgive the dog its simple mistakes.

  • Also, the Service Dog's natural capacity to forgive the child's mistakes also serves as a model for the child.

Motivation

  • Physical therapy, for instance, is difficult, but not only can the dog be a reward at the end of a session, the Service Dog can be actively involved in the physical therapy, used as a reward when the child completes sets of tasks.