Please note that although many organizations will not provide service dogs to individuals under 18 years of age, WE do so when a three-party requirement is met: the dog, the child with the disability and the adult dog handler.
Asperger Syndrome can cause a unique challenge to parents, however autism presents even more difficulties because they are often not able to use words to communicate. Most children with Asperger Syndrome are verbal however they usually do not have the ability to actively communicate with other people in an effect way. Often they get misunderstood and parents are blamed for the “bad behaviour” of the child. This means for parents and teachers that they need to create a supportive learning envirement to teach the child basic verbal and nonverbal communication skills.
Social skills can be enhanced and strengthened. The dogs give the child something to focus on to ease into actual verbalizing. The calmness that walking a dog provides is an automatic assist where engaging others is so much easier. The normal response to talk proudly about ones pet is a loving need that by ‘necessity’ coaxes the child to higher levels of verbalization and searching for the right words.
When children have a special dog friend accompanying them in daily routines, studies have shown they have lower levels of anxiety in their surroundings. Anger and aggression are far less pronounced. This carries cover to better rest and sleep thus breaking the cycle of insomnia.
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders need a strong routine and structured environment, because any small change creates feelings of fear and anxiety. Usually children respond very well to social stories which involve them with the dog to plan new activities.
Children with Asperger can get overwhelmed when in public. Most don’t like crowded places such as shopping centers, markets, restaurants. Just the presence of your service dog can help dramatically to reduce tandrums in such situations.
Often children can’t cope with close physical contact with other people, such as sitting next to someone in public transport and the dog can give them a little bit more space and distraction.
Another issue is that children with Asperger Syndrome are more sensitive to smells and noises and are prone to get sick in public transport, cars, restaurants … Because they usually get distracted by their own dog and they are less sensitive.
Unfortunately many children (and parents) suffer from lack of sleep, because off all the anxiety. If the dog sleeps in the child’s bed (without chewing on the stuffed animals and other belongings of the child) or next to the bed, the child will feel more secure and sleep much better.
The dog becomes in effect a ‘liberating anchor’ – without an adults hand to hold, the child tethered to the service dog has a wonderful attachment replete with a sense of being guided but also one of interest. Any tendency to bolt, even in crowded malls has a big dog to slow the child down till parents catch up.
Amazingly when the dog detects processes leading to repetitive behavior it will nudge or touch the child to break that focus. Snuggling and kisses does wonders for the child and diffuses any direction towards a meltdown. Often this little interaction is all it takes and the dog can provide this.
Another common behavior is a tendency to wander away and be not aware of life-threatening situation, such as cars, strangers …
Unfortunately children with Aspergers often don’t respond to their names consistently, because they are too distracted to hear you. It can be a good idea to train the dog to find the child immediately.
In situations where the child necessarily has been untethered and consequently has vanished, your dog can be trained to track down and find the child. Parents can’t match the dogs keen sense of smell and the dog will find wherever the child has gotten to. Speed, ease and safe finding of the child cannot be matched by human parents as against these dogs.