How Dogs Help Children With Autism

Autism is a disorder that affects 1 in every 54 children in the United States. Autism, more correctly known as Autism Spectrum Disorder, is a family of developmental disabilities involving difficulties with social skills and in some cases, is characterized by repetitive behaviors and nonverbal communication. 

Asperger’s syndrome, now known as high functioning autism, is not accompanied by a speech delay but children who have this disorder commonly have a high level of social anxiety and have a hard time “reading” other people.

Dogs are commonly used as therapy animals in a variety of settings and the use of dogs with autistic children is no exception. Research shows that dogs increase autistic children’s social skills, including their independence, confidence and assertiveness.

A study published in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing in 2015 showed an astounding 94% of children who were given the opportunity to be with a dog bonded to the canine.

 Although many organizations train dogs to be used as therapy dogs, these two organizations specialize exclusively in service dogs for children with autism.

Autism Service Dogs of America “…specializes in training and placing service dogs specifically trained to assist individuals dealing with the special challenges of autism.” The dogs provide a sense of physical safety as well as an emotional anchor for autistic children.

Another organization, Blessings Unleashed, is committed to enriching the quality of life as well as enhancing the independence of families and the child with autism. They are noted for their work in “turning rescue dogs into heroes for children with autism.

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By Ellen Britt

Dr. Ellen Britt has loved dogs since she was a child. She is particularly fond of the Northern breeds, especially Alaskan Malamutes. Ellen worked as a PA in Emergency and Occupational Medicine for two decades and holds a doctorate (Ed.D.) in biology.

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