I guess I don't blog very much. I am a pretty busy person and kinda prefer the short and sweetness of Twitter. But things are going on that I think it might be helpful to share with others so I am going to try and do this more often.
My daughter's autism service dog, Darwin, has had to be retired because he has arthritis. His job is keeping the couch warm now. We have begun to embark on getting a new dog to train for her. I thought I was going to have to wait a year, but my sister-in-law convinced me to try and do a "Go Fund Me" towards the new dog b/c it couldn't hurt to try. So I did. And lots of kind friends and total strangers have helped us out. It's incredible. We are going to be able to get a dog next month that we will start training right away! Catherine is over the moon excited!
I figured it might be helpful for others for me to document our autism service dog training. I trained her other dog and will train this one as well. I want to train for some more difficult tasks now that Catherine is older her needs are different. I will be hiring a (or some) professional trainers to help me out.
Service dogs from organizations are a wonderful thing, but the ones with free dogs have waitlists of about two years, and even then the dog is a "maybe" and that's only IF you are accepted onto the waitlist in the first place. Other organizations want a $13,500 - $20,000 + "donation" for them to provide a dog. It's perfectly legal to train your own dog, and you can do so with the help of a hired trainer, or even completely on your own. Once your dog has trained for tasks that help your disability you can go down and register him/her as a service dog. It's very wrong to pretend your pet is a service dog. If you need a dog for companionship for an emotional need you can apply to your dr for a note for an "Emotional Support Animal". This would give you the right to have the animal in your rented home or apartment - even if that housing doesn't allow pets. It doesn't allow you to take your dog to the store etc with you. Doing so hurts those who need service dogs and puts service dogs in danger. Please don't. However, if you are disabled, physically or you can have a psychiatric service dog (for example for PTSD), and are able to train a dog to help you and preform tasks that you need help with on your own or by hiring a private trainer, it's perfectly okay to do so as per ADA.
What does an autism service dog do? I got asked that a lot when we were out with my daughter's retired dog when he was working. Tasks would be different person to person, but some tasks that an autism dog can do for an individual are:
Anchoring - if the (usually child in this case) is attempting to elope (run away in a dangerous manor) the dog will lay down and "anchor" the child so they can't run away and put themselves into danger.
Guiding - a lot of people with autism can have difficulty navigating places, especially busy or crowded places, and may step in front of people or cars and get themselves or others hurt. The dog can help with that by guiding them safely and stopping if there is danger.
Interrupting Panic Attacks/Self Injurious Behavior/ Emotional Breakdowns/ Stemming -( I personally don't think that it's really beneficial to stop stemming behaviors but that's another post.) However, service dogs can help with any of these situations listed by nuzzling or licking etc a person and basically insisting the person stop the behavior and pet the dog.
Deep Pressure Therapy - most people with autism have sensory issues and many people with autism find deep/heavy pressure to be very soothing. (For more google Temple Grandin's "Hug Machine"). A service dog can be trained to lay on the person and provide soothing pressure that eases a sensory meltdown.
Seeking - if a person with autism wanders without their dog, their dog can be taught to help find them.
Guide to Safety - if a person with autism becomes lost or disoriented with their dog their dog can learn to guide them back home or to a safe location where they can get assistance.
Social Bridge - People like dogs. A dog can be a bridge that allows the person with autism something to break the ice socially with others and something to talk about.
Sensory Relief - The presence of the dog can help an autistic person escape sensory overload by allowing the person to pet and hug them, and to take a little break from the Big Loud World by focusing in on the dog for sometime until their sensory system gets regulated.
Turning on the Lights - an autism service dog can turn on (or off) the lights in a room to make a person with autism be able to enter if they are too afraid to do so otherwise.
Retrieve - Autism dogs can retrieve dropped items (or anything they are trained to retrieve) for the person with autism who may have trouble doing so without help.
These are just some of the things an autism service dog can do. There are more! If you have an autism service dog, or know someone who does and would like to add to my list, please comment!
Autism Superhero Dog