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Discover Why Service Dogs for Autistic Children Make Priceless Companions

Many autistic individuals require a unique variety of emotional support that doesn’t always come from fellow human beings. This is because autism is still so misunderstood even in the high-tech 2020s. Some psychiatric experts will tell you that dogs can offer more therapeutic and emotional support than humans. This is because dogs are more patient and loyal and display unconditional love and affection.

However, psychiatric service dogs require specialized training. In fact, all dogs require training of one kind or another to live long, happy lives and not threaten others outside the home. Also, it’s not just the dogs that need to be trained; their owners or handlers also do.

Service Dogs for Autistic Children Make Priceless Companions

The pros at Cathy’s Canines, a Phoenix dog trainer, say the most important thing a professional trainer can do for their clients is teach them how to recognize their dog’s state and easily transition an overly excited dog back to a calm state. The trainer aims to make the owner feel confident in assessing their dog’s state of mind and utilize practical tools to return them to calm. This makes for a happy, healthy dog and a happy master.

That said, what is a psychiatric service dog, and how can they help autistic children? How are they trained? According to a recent report by PsychCentral, a psychiatric service dog is trained for unique tasks to assist people with disabilities or mental health conditions. The service animals are trained to the specific needs of their handlers.

Examples of this include but are not limited to the following:

  • Seizure alerts
  • Medication reminders
  • Emotional support for post-meltdown
  • Acting as a foil for handler self-harm
  • Room safety checks and searches

Don’t confuse psychiatric service dogs with emotional support dogs (even though service dogs will provide plenty of emotional support when needed). By definition, emotional support dogs don’t have the task-specific training the handler will require to live a healthy, safe life.

Discover the Benefits of Service Dogs for Autistic Children: Learn how these specially trained dogs can improve the lives of children with autism.
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Service Dog Benefits for Autistic People

Adding a service dog to an autism management plan can be beneficial. In fact, for some people with autism, the right service dog can make the difference between merely existing and living a whole, rich life.

While each autistic person’s experience differs, the benefits of a service psychiatric dog are said to include the following:

  • Fewer and reduced agoraphobia symptoms
  • Reduction in overall stress
  • The ability to enjoy more frequent and safe outings, which results in more social contact
  • Improved social interaction and communication

It’s said that an estimated 80 percent of all autistic people will experience serious mental health challenges that are directly related to anxiety, stress, and depression. A 2019 study of animal-assisted therapy or AAT, which involved more than 50 persons diagnosed with autism, deduced that AAT with service dogs reduced agoraphobia and stress symptoms. Benefits were also said to include fewer depressive symptoms while achieving more excellent social responsiveness.

Service dogs also offer their handlers loyal, nonverbal friendships. Dogs are brilliant, if not intuitive, and they form lasting bonds with humans without using words. This close companionship comforts autistic people.

Service dogs also provide their humans with loyal, nonverbal friendships. Dogs are intelligent, intuitive animals who form attachments to humans without using words. Dogs are incredibly attuned to people’s experiences and emotions. They can sense when elevated stress is an issue and a meltdown is about to ensue. The dog will likely go to work comforting its handler.

Discover the Benefits of Service Dogs for Autistic Children: Learn how these specially trained dogs can improve the lives of children with autism.
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Benefits of Service Dogs for Autistic Children

Autistic children experience the same benefits from service dogs as their adult companions. These benefits can include:

  • Search and rescue should a child wander away from the home.
  • Improved sleep and rest
  • Emergency tethering to prevent a child from wandering away from home
  • Friendship and loyal companionship

Service dogs are trained to act as a living barrier between their autistic handler and other humans in crowded public venues, relieving deep pressure. This extends to the classroom, where the presence of a psychiatric service dog is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

If your child has autism, you should seek the advice of a professional dog trainer about the possibility of obtaining a service dog. The benefits include safety, emotional support, and education, like helping kids develop responsibility, empathy, patience, and task attention.

In a word, a service dog can be an autistic child’s best friend.

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