Service Animals: Autism Assistance Dogs

In continuing with the series on service animals, let’s look at autism assistance dogs!

In my mini-series on service animals, I have already covered guide and seizure-alert dogs. Now, I would like to talk about autism assistance pooches. These animals are especially important to me because I have a younger brother who has the disorder. While he has never had a legitimate service animal, my family has always had pets because they were so great for my brother.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders (brain disorders) that result in communication difficulties, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior. This disorder ranges from being very mild (Asperger’s Syndrome) to very severe. One of the biggest impacts that these assistance dogs can have for their humans is to help them remain calm during moments of stress, anger or anxiety. These pooches also provide safety, especially for kids, as they can deter strangers. The organization Paws With a Cause states, “Service dogs for children with autism act as constant companions…to help them improve social interactions and relationships, expand verbal and nonverbal communication, teach life skills, increase interest in activities and decrease stress within the family.”

My brother was diagnosed with profound autism at age three. He and my family have participated in many different types of therapy for many years. However, I think one of the most important things was and is living and interacting with our animals. There have been two very prominent dogs in my brother’s life: Beauty and Teddy. Beauty was a yellow lab that we grew up with, and Teddy is a yellow lab and Airdale Terrier mix that currently lives with him. My sibling is now 22 years old and just moved into his first apartment near the college he’s attending. He is studying English and Film there, and is never too far away from Teddy. While neither Beauty nor Teddy is a service animal, I can see the huge impact they have made on my brother. Having witnessed that, I can only imagine the mountains that official autism assistance dogs can move for their humans.

Do you know anyone that's autistic and has been helped by a furry friend? Tell us about it in the comment section!

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