A helpful study was conducted by Burrows, Adams, and Millman in 2002 and in 2008 found out a lot about an Autism Service Dogs and parents, and these results can give you a good idea of what to expect. A Service Dog isn't just for the child - it also serves as a calm and obedient family dog, helping the family deal with stress. Family and friends also go through so much when trying to help, and this responsibility is a significant hardship on the community. Thus:
- Parents and siblings need comfort and an outlet for their stress.
- Having a loving Service Dog in the family helps because the dog can lend a sympathetic ear to the family (when they want to talk to the dog), and and to dog can be there for each member of the family to cuddle, play, and exercise with.
- Caregivers are comforted to know that they have a tool available at all times to help with their charge.
The study found other benefits to parents in having a Service Dog in the family, including:
- Parents or caregiver can bring the Service Dog to the doctor's office with the child, and know that the dog will be a good tool to help relax both everyone.
- Caregivers felt more relaxed at night because the dog was with the child.
- Caregivers felt more in control and calmer in general because the child had a Service Dog.
- With parents of children with autism, the parents consistently claimed that although the dogs couldn't be specifically trained to prevent the child from wandering, many dogs figured out on their own how to prevent the children from bolting and running away.
We realize that having any dog in the house is increased work (picking up poop, feeding the dog, etc.), but the goal is that the work in taking care of a dog is more than balanced by the benefits, not only in helping with the child with autism, but also in helping the entire family deal with stress.
Source: Burrows, K. E., Adams, C. L., & Millman, S. T. (2008a). "Factors Affecting Behavior and Welfare of Service Dogs for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder". Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 11, 42-62.