A child with autism will likely have problems with communication, especially when it comes to expressing their emotions. There are a lot of ways to help a child come to terms with their condition. However, there’s one solution you may not have considered: a dog.
Dogs are surprisingly effective when it comes to helping children with autism in their day to day lives. However, there are two main types of dogs to consider: a service dog or a companion (therapy) dog. this guide will help you choose a service dog or therapy dog for your autistic child.
Service Dog v. Companion Dog or Therapy Dog
There are two types of dogs available for people who want to get a dog trained to be a help dog: service dog or companion dog (also known as a therapy dog). Here are some of the differences to clarify the differences between the different types.
Service dogs and companion dogs are both allowed to live in an apartment with a no pets” policy as well as fly on the plane with owners. The companion dog is specifically trained to offer companionship for emotional support. On the other hand, a service dog is trained for a wide variety of different experiences. Service dogs are specifically trained to assist one person in particular, and service dogs are welcome in public places while companion dogs are not.
A service dog costs about $40,000 to train while a companion dog only costs about $3,000 to train. Service dogs are great for blind people or people with severe autism. A companion dog may be suitable for someone with mild autism.
How a Dog Can Help a Child with Autism
Children with autism can lose focus when they get excited. A dog can help pay attention to their surroundings for them. For example, while playing outside, a service dog will be able to alert the child of an oncoming car if they start to wander into the road. When it comes to safety, a service dog is more qualified.
Many children with autism have social anxiety. They may struggle to relate to other children. A dog will give them someone to play with. The dog will even help them become more comfortable socializing with other children down the road.
3. Emotional support
When your autistic child gets angry or sad, they may not know how to deal with those feelings properly. When they feel bad, they can sit down with the dog and pet it. Soon, they will start to smile and feel better again. A dog helps make everyone happy, even in the middle of a fit.
4. Improve communication skills
Your child will need to communicate with the dog. They will need to learn simple commands and tell the dog when dinner is ready. Your child will learn how to use their words with the dog. However, communication is about a lot more than just words. Your child will learn how to communicate with the dog with body language and facial expressions, too.
How to Pick the Right Dog
1. Verify credentials
Feel comfortable to verify the dog’s credentials when you buy the dog. Similar to a diploma, the dog should have paperwork stating that they went through proper training. You should also try commands yourself to ensure the dog will listen to you and not just its current owner.
2. Consider how the dog will fit in your home
Certain dogs require more space than others. Look up the breed of dog to ensure that the dog will have enough space in your current home. Large breeds or highly active breeds will require more space than smaller, low-energy breeds. Agree on the size of the dog before going to buy.
3. Consider your child’s needs
Your child’s needs may be different than another child’s needs. You should think about your child’s specific case. Are they on the mild end of the spectrum or on the more severe end? What do you need the dog to do for your child?
4. Let your child have a say
this dog is going to be working with your child for an extended period of time. You need to let the child help pick out the dog. Bring them with when you get the dog to make sure they have a bond right off the bat. Your child will be more willing to develop a relationship with the dog this way.
Choosing between a service dog or a therapy dog can be quite confusing. Really, it depends on your child. How much help do they need throughout the day? Someone who struggles to communicate at all may need a service dog when someone with small emotional problems may benefit from a simple companion dog.