When I was growing up, I was always fascinated by how service dogs accommodated people who had a visual disability. It was a wonderful concept: to have an animal help a person.
Service dogs have come a long way since then. They now help people with many different types of disability in many different ways.
Autism service dogs help both the child and the family. They are trained in specific areas that target sensory-processing disorders. These service dogs help connect the child to the world around them. They also serve as a social connection for children who can be socially unaccepted due to their differences—i.e., other children are attracted to the dogs, so they are drawn to the dog’s person, too. The dogs can be trained to perform many therapeutic tasks to help with sensory issues.
One task that these dogs can perform is deep pressure. Deep pressure stimulation helps to disrupt bolting, self-harming activities, anxiety meltdowns, and stimming. The dog is trained to act like a weighted blanket, with the added benefit of warmth and calming rhythmic breathing. The dog is trained so that when they see any of those behaviors, they apply pressure with a paw or their body on the child. This results in a calming effect and a child can regain control of themselves. Another benefit from deep pressure and calming is an increase in quality sleep. My daughter and our whole family would benefit from this!
So many great assistance behaviors and techniques can be taught to the service dog. They can be beneficial to children with all different disabilities. These dogs can greatly improve general independence.
With some research, you can find sponsor programs and grants to help with the cost of a service dog. I think having a service dog for my daughter who struggles with sensory input and processing would be so beneficial for her.
I am going to make it a priority to research a service dog to help my daughter. What a wonderful gift to be able to give her!
Check the Services groups and Events section to find service dogs in your area.
Living with a child who has mental health issues can come with a lot of unknowns just like having a child with physical health issues. But society can treat both children very differently.
I have two boys. One is 10 and the other is 8. Both of my kids have disability labels. One has a physical disability and the other has emotional and behavioral issues. One disability you can see, the other you don’t – but it is there.