Autism Service Dogs

Also called autism assistance or autism alert dogs, these are dogs that live alongside children or adults with autism. (In contrast to autism therapy dogs, who visit treatment and residential centers.) Of course, children and adults with autism are individuals and not all benefit from a service dog. But for those who respond well, it can be life-changing. Characteristic of most autism spectrum disorders is the tendency to live in one’s own world. A dog can be a bridge to the outside world. The unique bond that grows between dogs and humans entices many kids and adults with autism to open up, communicate more, initiate interactions, and relax in situations that otherwise cause stress.

Dogs chosen as autism service dogs must be “bombproof,” meaning they stay calm in almost any circumstance. The singular skill of an autism service dog includes distracting from repetitive behaviors or ‘meltdowns’ with a nudge of the nose or a paw, as well as being tethered to a person to prevent and protect him from wandering. The benefits can include positive changes in behavior, emotional comfort, being able to go to restaurants and shops, and better and longer sleep for everyone in the family as the person with autism may wake less when co-sleeping with the dog.