Friday, March 30, 2012

April is Autism Awareness Month 2012: Service Dogs and Autism

While looking for the latest and greatest information on Autism and Service Dogs I stumbled across this post Another Fleecing of the Autism Community, Service Dog Edition about a now defunct program that took advantage of families with children on the spectrum. A problem that is sadly too common in my opinion, because it is very easy to get people to open their wallets for anything that might help these beautiful children and their families are often desperate to find anything that might help their child. More interesting than the article itself to me was a comment posted in response by Patty Dobbs of North Star Foundation,
" I want to mention that Siberian huskies are not a good choice for a child with autism, as their breeding does not lend them the necessary qualities to help them relate and communicate gently with a child on the autism spectrum. (Golden retrievers are much better suited to this work temperamentally...we breed several sound lines of Goldens that are superior temperamentally for work with children with autism.)
There is great danger in this field if children with autism are partnered with a dog that does not have the correct temperament to work with them...improper or nonexistent socialization of the dog slated for service work is also dangerous for the child. This is a service rich field, and it is not just about the training a dog receives or the facility they grow up within to keep the placement safe as well as effective."
This comment started me off on looking for articles providing food for thought for families with members living on the autism spectrum.

Food for Thought on Autism Service Dogs

In Service Dogs and Autism, world renowned Autism and Animals advocate Temple Grandin says,
"The use of service, or assistance, dogs with spectrum children is gaining popularity. However, this is a complicated issue. Unlike other autism interventions that can be more easily started and stopped, embarking on the journey to find an appropriate service dog for a child is a long-term commitment on the part of the entire family. A service dog is much more than a well-trained pet."
She goes on to discuss the sensory issues that come with dogs that may turn a child with autism off to a service dog and the different levels of support dogs can be trained to provide families and children on the spectrum. As a follow up piece to this one Temple wrote Questions to Ask When Selecting a Service Dog Provider, a good list of question for any family considering a service dog to use and think about what answer would be acceptable and not. 

In Service Dogs Aid People With Autism, Merope Pavlides, a  Certified Pet Dog Trainer and Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, as well as the mother of a son with autism discusses the common roles of a service dog placed with a child with autism and the pros and cons of such placements for families.

From The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism I found an Autism Service Dogs article 
by Sarah Oriel about her experiences in obtaining and working with a service dog for her son who has autism.  More can be found about her family's journey into the world of service dogs on her blog Planet Josh under the Paws and Effect .

From Service Dog Central, a cross disability community of service dog partners, their families and other allies Autism Service Dogs, multifaceted portal of information and issues surrounding service dogs for people with autism compiled by the members of the community living on or with someone who is on the autism spectrum.

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