One of the requirements for an Autism Service Dog is that they provide a task for the person with autism (this requirement is set by the Americans with Disabilities Act). The most common Autism Service Dog Tasks are:
- Medication reminder
- Tethering (for a child who bolts or elopes)
- Turning on lights (for the child who is afraid to go into a dark bedroom)
- Lap (the weight and pressure of the dog is soothing)
Many times a person with autism has other conditions that are comorbid. These conditions include epilepsy, blindness, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many times the service dog is trained with a task to help with one of these conditions. Each person with autism is very different in how they manifest symptoms and so each person requires very different treatments or solutions.
We recommend not only reason through our page on autism, but also our page on Psychiatric Service Dogs because anxiety, depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is so common among people with autism.
Having an intellectual disability along with autism is very common, and many times, an Autism Service Dog is trained as a “third-party” service dog. This term refers to the Autism Service Dog being trained so that the caretaker (often the mother) uses the dog as a team member to help the child. Note: I used to describe the dog in this scenario as a “tool” but “team member” not only gives the dog dignity and agency, but it also, it is a much more accurate description.