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When you think of a service dog, you’re probably not imagining one trotting alongside a person with autism…

However, thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service dogs are no longer limited to just the blind! Service dogs, along with therapy dogs and even companion dogs, can all provide emotional, social and physical support for your little one on the spectrum.

  • According to the ADA, an official service animal is defined as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. These special dogs receive extensive training and official certification to earn the privilege of accompanying people with disabilities everywhere in our community. Dogs that serve children with autism are trained to provide comfort during sensory overload, find family members or community helpers for those who tend to wander, help decrease stimming behavior, and increase social interaction!
  • On the other hand, therapy dogs are used to provide psychological and physiological affection and comfort in therapeutic situations. Some therapy dogs are encouraged to forgo formal training, while others simply use their naturally stable and friendly temperaments to help children on the spectrum.
  • Lastly, a companion dog is a typical family dog that may or may not have formal training but is simply well-behaved. According to a post from Autism Speaks, an affectionate companion dog can provide unconditional love and friendship, a calming influence, and a great model for important social skills like caring behavior and consideration of a friend’s needs. Additionally, caring for the dog can teach responsibility and other practical skills.

Now that you know a little bit more about your assistance dog options, Autism Speaks suggests you consider a few more things before bringing home the first furry friend you find!

  1. Does your child/family like dogs?
  2. Might your child or anyone else in the household have allergies that could be aggravated by a dog?
  3. Is your family prepared and ready to take on the long-term commitment and expense of caring for a dog in sickness and in health?
  4. Are you comfortable handling a dog while caring for your child and other family members?

If you’ve answered “yes, no, yes, and yes” to these questions, then you may just be the perfect candidate for an autism assistance dog!

Whether you decide to choose a service, therapy or companion dog for your family, the most important thing to keep in mind is that every child and dog is unique, and selecting the right animal just means finding the right match for YOU. Cayer Behavioral Group hopes that this information helped to inform and guide your choice in assistance animal, or at least that you learned something interesting and new!

Remember that you can always reach out to 850.320.6555 or email support@cayerbehavioral.com if you have other questions or concerns about ways to help your little one on the spectrum.

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