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Autism is a very severe disorder in children, which inhibits their natural growth and development. Children with autism are normally found to have a wide range of abnormalities, a limited set of interests, and tendency to repeat tasks. These symptoms, however, don’t necessarily mean the child is suffering from any sickness, fragility, or for that matter emotional disturbance. So, for parents dealing with an autistic child can be an uphill task, especially with someone who has severe impairments. Those suffering from extreme autism may cut himself off completely from society and even not interact properly with his parents, be developmentally disabled, and display extravagant body movements. Learning disabilities are widespread among autistic children, and they have a narrow set of interests while their communication at best can be described as pedantic. When it comes to treatment of patients with autism, there have been numerous efforts to find a proper cure for this disease. But, the behavior pattern of the disease is so dynamic and continuous that the diagnosis and treatment at best has been inadequate. Some sections in the medical fraternity believe that the diagnosis of autism should be based on the extent to which one has lost his linguistic ability and social skills, as opposed to one’s inability to make progress.
Though conventional treatments have so far failed to come up with a definitive course of treatment for autism, there are many alternative therapies that have been comparatively more successful in dealing with the various aspects of the disorder. Among the long list of alternate therapies, pet therapy is most sought after.
In fact the manner in which children with autism responds to pets is a source of encouragement for parents –the relationship is invariably instantaneous and reciprocal. Today it is not a novelty to find dogs being used in the treatment of autism. These dogs are, however, different from guide dogs in a few important aspects:
Autism assistance dogs versus guide dogs
A guide dog assists the patient to carry out physical tasks, like moving about in mud, snow, or when crossing a street. As these dogs are well trained, they can easily plan a safe and clear route and are a good substitute for a cane. But for all their usefulness, guide dogs don’t cater to the emotional aspect of the patient. And it is emotional support that children with autism need the most. Just the physical presence of these dogs has been found to reassure the child that he has a companion to whom he can share his deepest feelings and fears without having to worry about being judged. This restores his confidence and he is more likely to come out of his shell. In addition, it also helps the child to give off steam and pent up fury which may be building up inside him at his inability to be like other children.
Here are a few benefits of using an assistance dog:
Helps ease sensory overload: One of the common challenges faced by those afflicted with autism is they are often unable to filter out sensory input. They get information from their senses all at once, but fails to process them intelligently or to redirect them to the concerned department. This may cause confusion and a sense of delusion in the child, which affect his ability to carry out day-to-day activities. A trained dog can be of immense help in such situations, as it can give direction to these stimuli by determining a focal point.
Ensures personal safety: Children with autism have little sense of personal safety and as such if they are not under constant observation, accidents are bound to happen, some of which may be fatal. Autism assistance dogs are found to be of great help to such children. These highly trained dogs can be used to accompany the kid when he is going outdoors or visiting places that you may think is risky for his limited abilities –for the purpose, you may secure the child from his harness to the dog’s harness.
Provides emotional support: A major obstacle in the treatment of children with autism is that they are not very eager to share their feelings with others, which may be due to the self-realization that they are different from other kids their age. This in turn breeds contempt for the society and they increasingly start preferring to be left alone. But the tables are turned when an autism assistance dog is introduced. His gentle and kind disposition is enough to break the ice and the child takes an instant liking towards the dog. Also being animals, they are non-judgmental and this encourages the kid to be himself. The dog is more than tolerant to all the crazy noises and the many funny moves the child makes, and also his compulsive behavior. More importantly, these dogs are capable of touch and pressure intervention in addition to mobility assistance which preempts possible bodily harms to the child from repetitive and self-injurious behavior.
Helps the child connect to the outside world: Children with autism are so cocooned in their own little world that they are completely disconnected to what is happening in the world around them.
Autism assistance dogs with their uncanny ability can befriend these kids and help us take a peak into what goes inside their minds. Once we know what that feel and go through, it will make us more considerate towards them.
It is perfectly OK to use an assistance dog
The American Disabilities Act allows a person with severe disability to use a service dog which is trained to help the disabled person to lead a normal life. Some of the popular service dogs currently in service include social and emotional assistance dogs. An autism assistance dog is not very different from a dog that is trained to help patients with mental disabilities, and it is therefore no surprise to see that there is an increasing number of parents who are opting for this therapy which they believe will improve the quality of their child’s life.