Autism Assistance Dogs (for individuals higher on the Autism Spectrum Scale)

Autism Assist DogsParents of a child with Autism measure progress with small victories. A day that doesn’t include a safety scare, an emotional meltdown, or hours of frustrating struggle is rare. Even good days are exhausting as family members struggle to understand what their child wants or needs-and as they try to protect them from the sensory overload that can be so overwhelming.

Even with the great strides in Autism research, we have yet to find a cause or a cure. We can, however, identify several interventions and tools that alleviate symptoms and interrupt “space outs” or repetitive behaviors. These can improve the ability of a child on the autism spectrum to communicate their needs and feelings.

How Can Autism Assist Dogs Help?

Autism Assist Dogs offer a special kind of intervention, often able to improve the lives of children with Autism and their families’ lives in ways that no one could predict. A child who refuses to hold a parent’s hand in a busy parking lot will readily hold a leash attached to his or her dog. The child will follow along willingly as the dog follows the parent’s commands. With a special command, a dog can be sent to interrupt repetitive behavior or to recall a child from a space out, getting results that human intervention had not been able to achieve. Watching the dog calmly move from one situation to the next can help even the most anxious child transition in minutes, rather than the hours that it can often take. And, again, with a special command that the child can choose, a dog can provide the deep pressure that is so soothing to some children dealing with Autism without the social stigma of having to be hugged or held by a person.

Why does an Autism Assistance Dog Work?

Just like the cause of Autism isn’t easily defined, the reason that a dog can accomplish so much isn’t easily defined either. However, we do know that there are a few things that seem to make sense.

First, we know that Autism causes extra sensitivity to sound and touch. An Autism Assist Dog communicates in ways more subtle than speech and offers a gentler, more general touch that does not threaten to restrain.

Second, there is evidence of the deficiency of Oxytocin in the brain of those dealing with a diagnosis on the Autism Spectrum. Petting a dog causes a release of Oxytocin, a hormone that helps to calm and focus.

Finally, the presence of a dog is just novel enough to help neurotypical folks see past the behaviors of a child with Autism, giving that child many more opportunities to practice the social skills he or she has been learning with their dog.

ICAN charges a $75 non-refundable application fee and a one-time fee of $2,500, or whatever the fee is at the time you receive your dog. We then work with the client and dog team at no additional charge for the life of that partnership as new needs arise. Learn How to Apply.

ICAN places dogs within Indiana and placement is determined by our Client Placement Team on what dog will work best for that particular type of placement. There is a 2 to 3 year wait time for a dog, perhaps longer, for an autism assist dog. PLEASE NOTE: Not all autism assist placements provide full public access and must be 8 years or older to be eligible for autism assist dog. People who are thinking about applying for a service dog often have many questions about their eligibility and the process. Please refer to our FAQ section for many answers to common questions. If your specific question is not addressed, please contact us, or call Sandi, our Director of Client Services at 317-672-3865.