How can dogs help children with autism?
In the UK, autism assistance dogs can support children with autism and their wider family. According to the British Medical Association, one in 100 children in the UK have been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum.
You can apply for an autism service dog through one of the registered charities who provide assistance dogs in the UK. At petGuard, our insurance only covers dogs who have been trained in accordance with a member organisation of Assistance Dogs UK.
What can autism service dogs do?
Autism service dogs are highly trained to increase the confidence of young children and to develop the life skills of those with autism. An autism service dog is able to assist with:
- Road safety: Autism service dogs are able to improve the road safety awareness of young children to help keep them safe.
- Playing games: Playing games like hide and seek can help improve the social skills of a child with autism and can be great fun for both.
- Speech therapy: Many autistic children suffer from problems with their speech. Autism service dogs can help to improve the speech of the children they work with.
- Anxiety: With an autism service dog by their side, the anxieties that a child faces in day-to-day life can be eased.
- Adapting to new routines: Life brings about changes to routine which can be difficult to get used to. Autism service dogs can help children try new things and help adapt to changing routines.
- Reducing family stress: It’s natural for the parents of a child with autism to worry. A study from the University of Lincoln found that service dogs can help reduce the stress described by parents of autistic children.
What breed of dog is best for children with autism?
Many support dogs tend to be larger breeds such as Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Standard Poodles and German Shepherds. Staffordshire Bull Terriers and even much larger dogs such as Saint Bernards have also been used to help children with autism.
The important traits to look out for when deciding whether a dog can perform capably as an autism service dog are:
- A sociable temperament: The dog needs to be able to bond with their child and form a friendship.
- Trainability and aptitude: A service dog should be easy enough to train and intelligent enough to learn correct behaviours around their child.
- Appropriate energy levels: Dogs who are high energy may not be a good match for a child with autism.