For parents living with a child with Autism, a new source for support is just a bark away.
Service dogs have been found to help many children with Autism come out of their shell, as well as provide them with the kind of guidance and companionship that they so often require.
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Affecting 1 in 88 children, Autism has become one of the most prevailing conditions on Earth, and for parents coping with an Autistic child, it can mean serious changes to their life. For many parents, any chance to help their child regain some sense of independence is worth a shot.
HOW THEY CAN HELP
First and foremost, these service dogs help keep their children safe. With a heightened sense of curiosity and a diminished awareness of danger, children with Autism often find themselves in potentially life-threatening situations. In a similar fashion to how they lead the blind, a service dog can help prevent children with Autism from walking out into busy streets or wandering off on their own.
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Beyond keeping them safe, service dogs can help in a number of other ways.
Children with Autism often display certain behaviors which, if left unchecked, can end up intensifying and becoming further ingrained. “Stimming,” or repetitive forms of self-stimulation (i.e., clapping, hand-biting, hooting), are a commonly used outlet for children with Autism, and one many parents would like to see their children stop using. Service dogs can be trained to help gently interrupt these kid’s stimming patterns.
“Bryant will try to run in never-ending circles,” says Cindy Council, mother of a child with Autism. “[Our service dog] Imme voluntarily intercepts him with a figure-8 pattern. Her persistent interruption hinders Bryant from fading into his own world.”
Also, as anyone who has ever had a dog will attest, dogs can provide a great kind of unconditional love. For children with Autism, forming emotional bonds is often a hurdle that can be tough to overcome. Oftentimes, the bond formed between child and dog can help inform these kids on how to better connect with others.
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HOW YOU CAN HELP
While this type of relationship seems like it would be incredibly effective, it is not the most widely talked about therapy. If you know family that could benefit from a service dog, tell them that this option exists. Also, you can support organizations that are training these special dogs by fostering a puppy, hosting an event, or by making a donation. For more information, get in touch with the DFA here.