September is National Guide Dog Month. I’m about five days behind, but since it seems to be mainly celebrated in the U.S., I thought my tardiness was acceptable.
Since this blog has been a little lacking in interesting and factual information, I thought I’d post some service dog related entries for the next25 days.
Therefore, I think I will start my National Guide Dog Month entries, with a post on autism service dogs.
Autism service dogs perform a wide variety of tasks, such as help curb unwanted behaviours, encourage interaction with others, and provide independence. Unlike traditional service programs though, such as the ones which train guide dogs, there is a little less consistency surrounding the training of these special canines.
Some of the skills which they have been known to perform are:
• Act as an anchor to keep children from bolting into traffic;
• Alert their child’s guardian to harmful behaviour (such as an attempt to escape);
• Search for their child in the event of a successful escape;
• Help their child calm down and/or handle highly stimulating environments; and
• Provide a bridge for social interactions.
Even though there are many benefits to having an autism service dog, it is important to look at how a dog’s presence might change the family dynamics. Not every child will find a dog comforting. And not every family will find a service dog helpful. Some families will start the process of attaining a service dog, only to find out that the added responsibilities and public pressures are too much. They may also find that their child is disinterested in the dog and that the dog’s desire to be nearby is too overwhelming.
In this article from February of 2003, you will read about two boys (Scotty and Riley), who are learning about how different life can be with their autism service dogs.
In this second article, you will read about Aiden’s sister Amber, and the process Katie’s family went through to find out whether a dog was right for her.
Currently, there are only four programs in Canada which provide autism service dogs.
With the seemingly endless requests for these special canines, I’m very certain that we will soon see more programs offering autism service dogs, and that it may become just as common to see one as it is to see guide dogs who assist the blind and visually impaired.
Come back tomorrow to learn more about our special canine helpers.
(Just a closing note, I got most of my information through a basic Google search, but also took some points from an article inspired by the book “Animal-Assisted Interventions For Individuals With Autism” by Merope Pavlides)