Autism Service Dog
Article: Working Dogs » Autism Service Dog
An autism service dog is a service dog trained to assist a person with autism, to help them gain independence, confidence, and the ability to perform activities of daily living similar to anyone else. For the most part, these dogs are trained to perform tasks similar to those of service dogs for other sensory processing disabilities.
An Autism service dog is trained to help the handler process sensory information. Many autism service dogs are trained in guide work/obstacle avoidance (the same thing a guide dog does) to help the handler with visual stimuli.
As with hearing assistance dogs for the deaf, the Autism Service Dog may also be trained to alert their handler to important noises or other things requiring human intervention, such as smoke or a smoke alarm, a crying baby, a telephone ringing, a knock at the door. For a person with autism, it isn’t quickly obvious which of the many external stimuli is the urgent one requiring their immediate attention. A person with autism must sort through both major and minor stimuli—the sound of crickets, the smell of the fabric softener on their clothes, a car driving past outside—in order to determine which of these, if any, needs their attention. They may understand that a smoke alarm is urgent and requires them to exit the building, but their autism may cause them to take longer going about it.
How Service Dogs are Trained to Respond to Certain Behaviors:
|Self Stimulation||Will Signal Handler to Behavior, Handler May Choose to Stop|
|Self Harming||Will Interrupt Behavior|
|Overstimulation/Meltdown/Shutdown||Deep Pressure Tasks: Step on Foot, Paws on Lap, Lay on Handler|
|Poor balance/motor control||Counter-balance, brace for stability|
|Disorientation||Find the car, go home, find other specified places|
|Auditory Processing Problems||Alert to important sounds|
|Visual Processing Problems||Guide Work: steer around obstacles|
Service Dogs in Canada
In the late 2000s, Wade Beattie of Canada broke away from National Service Dogs and started Autism Dog Services. Two of their first dogs were Phoenix and Spencer. Phoenix, a black lab has been placed in Texas and Spencer has been placed in Milton, ON . Primarily, Wade takes the dogs in as puppies and they are raised by foster families. Sometimes, adult dogs are brought into the program where they assessed by Wade and then given to a foster family for a while. After the dogs are one year to fifteen months of age, Wade recalls them for their final training. After they have found the right handler the dog is given to the handler. Every year, the dog has to take a Public Access test to be certified.
National Service Dogs
National Service Dogs (NSD) is a registered Canadian charity that is dedicated to enriching the quality of life and enhancing the independence of children and families living with autism and special needs. Since 1996, they have graduated over 200 autism service dog teams. The success of these teams relies heavily on the time that is devoted to each dog throughout the training process, along with the partnership approach that is taken with each client to ensure they become confident handlers. NSD prides themselves on the continuous follow-up and support that is provided to each client throughout the working life of their dog.
For more information on NSD, visit www.nsd.on.ca.
Service Dogs in the UK
In The UK Assistance\Service Dogs are trained and supported by Charitable organizations; one such training Mobility assistance dogs is Dogs for the Disabled. Initially they were founded to train Dogs for people with Physical Disabilities, but they recently had a program training dogs to support families with Autistic Children.
- Service Dog Central – Tasks for Autism Service Dogs.
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