What are Autism Service Dogs?
Autism service dogs, also called social signal dogs or sensory signal dogs (SSigDOGs), are trained specifically to help people with autism. More than just a constant companion, these special dogs are trained to match the unique needs of their owners to help them develop life skills, remain calm in stressful situations, engage in physical activities, improve social interaction, and stay safe.
Service Dogs for Children with Autism
Autism is a spectrum disorder (ASD) that influences each child uniquely to the degree they are affected and in what areas they need assistance. Having a service dog trained to assist, support, and protect can help a child with autism cope, develop, and manage their needs.
Some of the trained tasks and benefits of having a service dog for a child with autism include:
- Providing a safe, physical tether to the child to prevent him/her from wandering off;
- If a child goes missing, a service dog can track the scent and lead a parent or caregiver to the child;
- Purposeful task-trained pressure from the dog (ex: placing a paw on a child’s leg) that can provide a calming sensory distraction for a child who may be experiencing a meltdown;
- Social interaction in that a child with autism can communicate with others by talking about their dog;
- Additional comfort to help a child fall asleep or snuggle with their fur buddy if they have trouble falling back to sleep;
- Learning life skills such as learning how to brush, feed, and take care of their service dog;
- ….and more!
Service Dogs for Adults with Autism
Adults with ASD can benefit greatly from having a service dog companion in their life. Autism is a neurological disability that affects how a person thinks, processes sensory information, and engages in social interaction. A service dog can provide a person with Autism with therapeutic relief as well as live a more active, independent, and enriching life both at home and in public.
Some of the trained tasks and benefits of having a service dog for an adult with Autism include:
- Facilitating interaction with others as a service dog can initiate and develop conversations;
- Providing a sense of consistency and support during times of unfamiliar or uncomfortable transitions;
- Reducing isolation with the need for regular and active outdoor exercise and activity;
- Giving unconditional love and attention;
- Decreasing stress hormone levels to help reduce anxiety;
- Developing ongoing life skills of responsibility to care for their dog.
Is an Autism Service Dog Right for You?
Not every person with ASD will benefit from a service dog. Individuals who are afraid or uninterested in dogs would not be a good fit. However, if a person is naturally drawn to animals for comfort and interaction, a service dog could make a remarkable difference in that person’s life.
If you’re considering bringing an autism service dog into your home, carefully consider if you can meet their needs. It is essential to keep the dog up-to-date on veterinary care, provide it with regular exercise, maintain a healthy living environment, and give it a warm, loving home.
It’s also important to understand that an autism service dog is more than just a family pet. While there may be some overlap in what a pet can provide an adult or child with autism in the form of comfort, care of the animal, and exercise, a service dog has specific training to understand on command the needs of an individual with autism. To learn more about different types of service dogs, visit Therapy Dog Types – Understanding the Difference.
UDS can Help
To find out more, visit UDS Service Dogs and the types of service dogs that benefit people with disabilities and autism.
If you feel you may qualify for a service dog, or want more information about service dogs, visit our UDS Service Dog Program. UDS experts will assess your needs, do a consultation, and obtain cost estimates.
The UDS team is one of the leading human service providers in Pennsylvania. If you’re in Lancaster, PA or counties surrounding the South Central PA, areas contact us today.