What Are the Advantages?
The two key areas where these animals provide the biggest advantages are in safety and behavior.
They can alert a parent or caregiver to an impending crisis and intervene to stop behaviors by nudging or placing a paw on the child. The dogs provide a calming effect on these children and may reduce the occurrence of the ritualistic or repetitive behaviors and motions which many autistic children exhibit.
Because the child is tethered to the animal, parents or caregivers have more peace of mind about the child’s safety. Most autistic children are well-known escape artists who can disappear in the twinkling of any eye.
As many of these children either lack verbal communication skills or refuse to use them, once they are hidden, they may or may not respond to attempts to get them to reveal their location or respond to their name. In such situations, knowing that a dog can track and find the child quickly is a great stress reliever.
In addition to the benefits mentioned above, service dogs can enable a child to develop relationships and learn to show affection, which is generally difficult for these children.
Many children are able to sleep by themselves or sleep for longer periods because of the dog’s presence. They have more freedom to go more places. Aggressive behaviors such as kicking or pinching may be reduced or even eliminated, and the children begin to interact and form relationships with others.
Finally, family trips to the movies or amusement parks, which should be an enjoyable outing for everyone, can cause a traumatic sensory overload for these special needs kids. However, the calming presence of their service dog can allow these kids to better enjoy such fun family adventures.