Are dogs good for autistic people?
Owning a pet has many benefits, but studies have been found to that pets are able to provide and increase in benefits, in particular, to individuals living with Autism. Assistance dogs have public rights, meaning they can go with you anywhere, such as supermarkets and public transport. This is because they complete strict and through testing and training before they are accredited the title of assistance dogs. Proving support and structure to people who are living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is crucial in helping them achieve their goals and aspirations in life.
Why are dogs good for Autism?
Assistance dogs have training to help people with autism by reducing their anxiety. An assistance dog is trained to have a variety of skills required to assist a person with a disability, whether by providing emotional support or helping with daily tasks. This is very different to a therapy dog, which tends to visit multiple people to provide comfort. An assistance dog stays with the same family or owner for a lifetime, around 8-10 years before they retire.
Here are some of the many benefits that assistance songs provide to those children and adults living with a disability.
1. Improved Road Safety
Walking along side a road can be a very scary and dangerous place for children living with autism. Many children do not have a sense of danger but can also be terrified of the noise given off by passing cars and trucks. Children can often run or dart off if they become overwhelmed and anxious. Your assistance dog can help calm individuals and provide a safety net for your child.
2. Overcoming Fears and Increasing Confidence
People living with ASD tend to spend more time indoors and have low confidence. With the company of their assistance dog, they may spend more time outside, and build up confidence to trying new things with their new companion by their side. Increasing self-confidence overall promotes positive feelings and thoughts.
3. Spend more time Outdoors
Owning a dog is a great way to increase your time outside. Physical exercise can help improve anxiety whilst providing other physical benefits. The fresh air and time spent outside also increases your levels of vitamin D, which can improve your overall mood.
4. Reducing Family Stress
Many individuals who have autism also have increased levels of anxiety, which increase the levels of anxiety on other family members as they care for this person or spend large amounts of time with them. Petting and hugging a dog can often provide an overall calming effect. Many dogs can be trained to lie over a person to help provide a weighted but light pressure, which often removes the feelings of anxiety. Many have found that this can also increase quality and length of sleeping during the night, if they have trouble with sleeping.
5. Encouragement to talk
An assistance dog can empower individuals to be confident and develop and grow. They help them to follow routines and can build structure in their lives. This includes social, cognitive, and verbal skill development. Their dog can help them function in social settings and probing them with this coping strategy, they will be able to concentrate on developing those communications skills.
6. Build and form relationships
Forming relationships and building secure bonds can really promote good mental health. Many find this in friends and family members, but other who find it hard to verbalise and socialise with others often find it difficult in creating those social bonds. Being able to create a special bond with your assistance dog encourages the nurturing feeling and love for someone else that you may find in a friendship situation. Learning to look after an animal can often enable us to reach out to others and build friendships with people outside of the home. This is also related to confidence building and getting outside and into your local community.
What’s the Best Dog Breed for Autism?
Choosing the right breed of dog is dependent on your family needs and lifestyle. Service dogs are reliable and have been through the required testing and training, so they are all capable of helping children with autism or other special needs and disabilities. As with all animals, further research regarding dog’s temperaments and energy levels will help you find the perfect fit for your family. Some suitable dog breeds are:
- Golden Retriever
- Saint Bernard
- German Shepherd
- Bernese Mountain Dog
Are assistance dogs available on the NDIS?
Some individuals on a NDIS plan may use assistance dogs a form of support, but each case is different to the next. To form a decision, the NDIA must complete an assessment to make sure that the animal is reasonable and necessary in proving support to a person to help them pursue their goals. They will require services in writing from the following:
- A registered assistance animal provider
- Allied health professionals
- The person applying
If successful, the funding would be provided to an animal that has passed, or will pass the state requirements, of the Public Access Test. This will ensure an animal is suitable to accompany and support a person in a community environment. More information can be found on the NDIS website.
ConnectAbility can help provide support to you and your family through your NDIS plan. Our team aids those living with a disability, from in home care, to getting out and about within their community. If you would like to speak with one of our team on how we can help you, or a family member, please contact us on 4349 3700 and we would be happy to answer any questions you may have.