Autism Service Dogs: Therapeutic Effects

The Service Dog can be used for therapeutic stimulus, a time-out alternative, and for relief of stress.

Autism     Autism: Empathy     Autism: Socialization     Autism: Soothing Melt-Downs     Autism: Educational Tool     Autism: Therapeutic Effects     Autism: AS-HFA     Autism: Extra Benefits

       

Autism Service Dogs: Therapeutic Effects 

Some children with autism can be greatly helped with a Service Dog. Some of the factors are:

Therapeutic stimulus

Treatments such as Applied Behavioral Analysis, Floortime, and Rapid Prompting all share a fundamental strategy that Soma Mukhopadhyay called "in your face". With these techniques, the parent or teacher doesn't let the child withdraw for very long, instead, they engage the child as much as possible pushing them to interact. By following the child's lead, playing with their toys when they want to play with them, interactions are further encouraged. This kind of technique can be exhausting, though, and there's a limit to how often or how much a teacher or parent can do these "In your face" interactions. A Service Dog who is bonded to the child, though, is perfect for these kinds of interactions. (Quick note - often the Service Dog does not bond with the child, but when they do, this extra benefit can be quite helpful.) The dog is always curious about what the child is doing, always interested and wants to be involved in the child's activities. Wherever the child is, whatever the child is doing, the dog is interested in it wants to be a part of it. The dog's attentions, interruptions, and interest serve as a constant stimulus, helping keep the child out of their own little world, always interacting.

Time-outs

Instead of a time-out being a punishment, it can be simple a time quietly spent with the child's Service Dog. The dog can continue in "Stay," and the child can take support and comfort from the dog, helping soothe and calm.

Relief from stress

Many times, the Service Dog will learn what calms down the autistic child when they're stressed out or upset. By providing tactile snuggling, or even just sitting in front of the child, the dog can often soothe the upset child, or even interrupt their melt-down.