Life can be difficult for children who have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other developmental difficulties. ASD results in developmental disability, which frequently results in additional concerns such as rigid behavior, limited interests, social isolation, and anxiety. Children with ASD sometimes have attention spans and difficulty communicating socially.
Different therapy and behavioral management programs are available to assist children who are affected by this neurodevelopmental disorder. Some therapists emphasize the development of ASD patients’ communication abilities, neurological rehabilitation, and emphasize reducing harmful behaviors linked with autism. Additionally, another activity that benefits kids with autism is therapy dogs for kids with autism using therapy dogs.
What Are Therapy Dogs?
These dogs are trained to show affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, kids museum, those with learning disabilities, nursing homes, preschools, and stressful situations such as disaster sites. Therapy dogs for kids with autism come in a variety of shapes and sizes. A therapy dog’s greatest distinguishing quality is its disposition. A good therapy dog must be affectionate, patient, self-assured, gentle, and comfortable in all situations. Therapy dogs must like human interaction and be fine with being touched and handled, though clumsily at times. The fundamental function of a therapy dog is to allow individuals to make body contact with it and cherish that touch. Children, in particular, adore animal hugging; adults, on the other hand, typically love simply touching the dog. The dog may require lifting onto or climbing onto an individual’s lap or bed to sit or lay comfortably.
Therapeutic Dogs must be trained in on-leash obedience and must maintain control while exhibiting great conduct. They must be able to operate alongside other dogs while being non-aggressive. Therapy dogs are gregarious, connecting positively with people. They appreciate being handled, petted, and held when the situation warrants it. Additionally, they possess the capacity to maintain their composure in novel situations that may contain various distractions.
Therapy dogs for kids with autism are available in a variety of breeds.
3 Distinct Kinds of therapy dogs for kids with autism
The first and most prevalent type of dog is the ‘Therapeutic Visitation’ dog. These dogs are family pets whose owners visit hospitals, care homes, detention centers, and rehabilitation centers. Visitation dogs assist children confined to their homes due to physical or mental sickness or court order. These children feel lonely; a visitation dog can brighten their day, improve their spirits, and assist them in completing their therapy or treatment.
The second classification of a therapy dog is an ‘Animal Assisted Therapy’ dog. These dogs support occupational and physical therapists in achieving critical healing goals. A dog can assist in regaining motion in limbs, motor skills control, and regaining pet care abilities for at-home pet care. Animal Assisted Therapy dogs for kids with autism are typically employed in rehabilitative settings.
The final category of a therapy dog is referred to as a ‘Facility Therapy Dog.’ These dogs are typically employed in nursing homes and are frequently trained to assist individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of mental illness in avoiding danger. They are cared for by a professional member of staff and live on-site.
Seven of the Best Dog Breeds for People with Autism
Few bonds are stronger than those between a youngster and their dog, especially when the four-legged pet acts as a security and trusted guardian.
While most children benefit greatly from having lived with a pet dog, it has been demonstrated that children with autism benefit much more. According to a national institute of health survey, 67 percent of households with autism had dogs, and 94 percent of parents said their autistic children had developed a particular attachment with the dog.
If you’re thinking of adding a therapy dog to your home to help your child with autism, you’re probably thinking, ‘What breed is best for autism?’ This list consists of the top seven dog breeds for an autistic child:
- Golden Retriever- Without the Golden Retriever, no list of family-friendly pets would be complete. This historic breed is an excellent choice for therapy dogs of various types and families with children who have special needs, most notably youngsters with an autism spectrum disorder. Golden Retrievers are a good choice for autistic kids because of their happy-go-lucky disposition and persistent desire to please their owners. Golden Retrievers are gentle, tolerant, loving, and loyal. Their wonderful characteristics make them exceptionally easy to train. This delicate breed is known for its peaceful demeanor and moderate intelligence, making them popular therapy dogs for kids with autism. Simply said, if you’re searching for a dog that will be there for your child forever, look no further than Golden Retriever.
- Saint Bernard- While many will recall this gentle behemoth from the 1992 box office smash Beethoven, Saint Bernard has topped our list due to his disciplined demeanor. Despite its enormous size, Saint Bernard is a very kind dog. While Saint Bernard’s do have a stubborn streak, they are also tolerant, kind, and lovely with little children, making them a good choice for autistic children. These canines are devoted, and simple duties come easily to them. Saint Bernard’s are excellent therapy dogs, but their great size makes them unsuitable for full-time service dog work, as they may unknowingly overpower a tiny child.
- Labradoodle- The Labradoodle is a favorite choice for families with children with autism. It is a hybrid between a Poodle and a Labrador. Because most breeds on this list shed substantially, Labradoodles are excellent choices for individuals who do not want a lot of additional hair in their homes. Labradoodles are also non-allergenic. They are allergy-friendly, which adds to their appeal for families with respiratory sensitivities. This amusing canine comes in various sizes and colors because they are rarely a 50-50 mix of the two breeds, frequently resemble one more than the other. Labradoodles make excellent family dogs and are relatively easy to teach due to their high intelligence level. They are also a common pick for therapy dogs for kids with autism because of their advantageous traits.
- Collie- This devoted breed is the ultimate family dog, and their inherent intelligence, along with their drive to please, makes them an ideal therapy dog for autistic children. Mild-mannered, sensitive, and excellent with children, the Collie has been developed to be acutely observant of human emotions, which is critical for parents contemplating a dog for a kid on the spectrum. Collies are a graceful breed that is naturally playful yet will not stray from their owners, making them an ideal choice for beginning dog owners. Collies are an elegant breed that is naturally playful yet will not stray from their owners, making them a perfect choice for novice dog owners.
- German Shepherd- If you want a dog who will guard your family, a German Shepherd is indeed the dog for you. German Shepherds, widely recognized as one of the smartest canines, are frequently the first-choice dogs for emotional support. German Shepherds are normally quite focused and do not easily become distracted. As a result, they will pay close attention to their owner and can undertake difficult duties. German Shepherds are compassionate and loyal even when they are wary of strangers. They can comfortably keep up with a child’s active personality or tone it down as needed.
- Bernese Mountain Dog- This is yet another excellent therapy dog breed. Their mix of size, calm demeanor, and intellect make them especially useful as ASD companions. These dogs are eager to please and simple to train, not to mention their pleasant presence that can make everyone smile. They enjoy being of service and are rather sensitive, so they require a lot of love and compassion. This exchange of affection will aid in the development of an even stronger link between pup and child. Unfortunately, the breed is noted for drooling and excessive shedding, which may be off-putting to certain households. Both of these, however, are trivial inconveniences for such wonderful dogs.
- Newfoundland- Believe it or not, this enormous breed is another excellent option for autistic children. They are extremely friendly and simple to teach, not to mention extremely intelligent. Regardless of their size and intimidating appearance, Newfoundland’s are one of the kindest breeds on this list. While Newfoundland’s are large dogs, they are not extremely lively, so consider adopting one if your youngster is less hyperactive. Typically utilized as therapy dogs for children with depressive symptoms and autism, this breed’s lengthy history of assisting children with special needs provides parents with significant assurance. This adorable puppy is worthy of proper attention by parents of autistic children.
The Benefits Of Therapy Dogs In The Treatment Of Autism Spectrum Disorder
Being around household pets or engaging in structured animal engagement can be an excellent supplement to therapy for children with autism. Numerous studies from parents and professionals indicate that interacting with animals, formally known as animal-assisted therapy, can benefit children with autism on both a physical and emotional level. Below are the benefits of therapy dogs in treating ASD in children.
- Social Participation- Children with autism have some trouble interacting with others. A therapy dog can assist an autistic youngster in breaking the ice and motivating them to socialize. When necessary, therapy dogs for kids with autism can help divert autistic children’s attention away from distractions and help them focus on a task.
- Maintaining Calm During Meltdowns- Therapy dogs are capable of detecting and sensing the emotions of the individuals they are caring for. A therapy dog can occasionally mitigate the severity of or completely avoid the start of a tantrum during a session.
- Development of the Cognitive and Emotional Systems- Autistic children occasionally lack cognitive abilities. Their inflexible demeanor frequently impairs their ability to build emotional connections with others. Because therapy dogs help children with autism develop good sentiments of caring, love, and empathy. Therapy dogs for kids with autism enjoy being held, stroked, and snuggled by youngsters, instilling an additional sense of caring in autistic children.
- Support for the Sensory System- Sensory stimulation is necessary for children with autism through routine games and activities. Through various games and activities such as tug of war, hide and seek, and massage, therapy dogs can be trained to aid autistic children throughout the process.
- Affirmation During Anxiety- A therapy dog is an excellent companion for coping with an unexpected spell of anxiety and unrest. Therapy dogs are well-known for their ability to alleviate stress. Therapy dogs provide a sense of stability for autistic children.
- Increased Vocal Ability- Autistic children struggle with communicating. It has been observed that when a therapy dog is present, such children speak more frequently. A therapy dog can make a major difference in the lives of speech-impaired or nonverbal youngsters by increasing their communication.
- Relationships- Eye contact is challenging for autistic children. Additionally, this developmental impairment impairs their ability to socialize and bond with others. Therapy dogs for kids with autism, on the other hand, have an uncanny capacity to bond with youngsters. This assists the child in developing friendships and coping with loneliness. Unlike human companions, therapy dogs are nonjudgmental, which aids an autistic youngster in developing social skills.
Before Adopting a Dog, Here Are Some Questions to Ask
Researchers advise parents to carefully examine their children’s sensitivities before selecting a pet to guarantee a good match. For instance, a youngster who is easily stressed or sensitive to noise may struggle with an excessively busy or barking dog. Additionally, it is critical to consider several of the following:
• Is this dog going to be a therapy dog or a family dog? Therapy dogs for kids with autism have independent living conditions and cognitive training and pain relief requirements, e.g. veterinary laser therapy, compared to family dogs.
• Who’ll be responsible for the dog’s care? If you want your autistic child to take on some responsibility, make sure the dog’s stature and temperament correspond to your child’s emotional and physical abilities.
• Will the dog require additional care and love? Autistic youngsters may struggle to empathize with the ‘unique needs’ of an abused or mistreated dog. Consider drug addiction treatment to have a peaceful family. You can visit a mediation lawyer to help you in divorce law when you feel the condition affects other family members. Don’t wish to quit the family roles because there is a solution.
• What are our options in case your kid and the dog do not get along? If you get a dog to assist your child in obtaining social and emotional support and developing abilities, what will you do if the relationship does not work out? If you feel that returning the dog and attempting again is preferable to keeping it and hoping for the best, you’ll want to ensure that choice is available. Also, consider getting a dog bite injury lawyer in case your child gets injured in the process.
Choosing the Appropriate Dog for Your Autism Spectrum Disorder Child
When selecting a dog, check for the following characteristics:
• A calm, sociable temperament: The objective of having a dog in the life of an autistic child is to offer the child a friend with whom he can place his trust and with whom he can interact socially. Get a spay and neuter veterinarian to avoid restlessness in your dog
• Trainability and intelligence: You’ll want to train your dog not only to act responsibly around your child but also to teach your child how to give the dog orders that will be heeded.
• Energy levels: A high-energy dog may not be an appropriate companion for an autistic child. Autistic children frequently have reduced muscle tone and a reduced capacity for physical activity.
Autism is a source of stress for families just as much as it is for the child who has it. However, therapy dogs for kids with autism do more than assist autistic children; they also help parents and families find serenity and strength. Therapy dogs have been demonstrated in studies to assist parents of autistic children to feel more relaxed and less stressed.