Autism Service Dogs
"When you live in a world you don't understand; you have to be prepared for the unpredictable"
~ Alex Lowery
At Open Range we understand that each child with Autism is absolutely different. Our goal is to help your child and your family to smoothly navigate everyday life. We have created a specific program to tackle the obstacles of every day life.
Learning to Self Soothe:
If you have a child with Autism (ASD) you know that a melt down is much more than a tantrum. It can best be described as a complete loss of control. A meltdown often results in lashing out and not being able to be comforted or calmed down. One of the ways that we prevent meltdowns is to help the child learn to use the dog to self soothe even before the situation escalates. We know that we can not prevent every melt down, but we can also use the dog after a melt down to calm the child back down and soothe him or her after the fact.
In much the same manner that we help someone with anxiety, depression or PTSD, the dog can use touch and pressure to help the child feel safe and calm. We work with the dog on the command "lap." Pressure is extremely effective in soothing and having a dog lay its head on the child's lap accomplishes two things. It gives the pressure over the child's lap to help bring down blood pressure and the heart beat. It also gives the child the option to pet the dogs head and feel the warmth coming from the dog. Understanding that human touch is not always welcomed or needed by a child with ASD is a huge plus to your service dog.
What happens if the child lashes out physically at the dog?
We have seen that a dogs intuition is similar to a human and they have a learned sense of when it is ok to step in and when they need to back off and remain in the background. The dog will shy away from physical lashing out, which is what we want. But it will learn its child and learn when to distract and when it is early enough to step in and help calm before physical lashing out starts.
Touch differences with a dog vs. a parent or caretaker:
A child with ASD has a different way of communicating both socially and physically. So it is important to note that generally children with ASD often do not want to be touched or hugged and held. When we introduce a dog there is a sense of safety with the child and it can help on so many levels. The dog does not leave the child, giving the parents a sense of freedom. The average ASD parent has eyes like a hawk and is always watching their child for signs. A service dog allows the parents to relax even just a little bit knowing that they have the reassuring presence of their dog.
Socialization with a service dog: