How to Prepare Your Child for an Autism Service Dog
Getting an autism service dog is an exciting time for a family with a child on the autism spectrum. Often, parents can’t wait for their child to be able to take advantage of the many benefits that these service dogs can bring. But adding a service dog to the family is a big step. In order to help ensure it runs smoothly and so that your child will start seeing positive results right away, it’s best to do a little prep beforehand.
Here are a few steps to take before you bring home your service dog:
Consider Sensory Issues
Many children on the autism spectrum have sensory issues, and it’s important to take those into consideration when choosing the breed you’d like your service dog to be. As this article points out, if your child is sensitive to noise you’ll want a dog that keeps barking to a minimum. If your child is sensitive to touch, it will be best to choose a breed with soft, rather than wiry fur.
Involve Them in the Training Process
The sooner your child can start getting comfortable with their dog the better. If possible, consider choosing a training program that allows your child to take part. For example, this article tells about a partnership between Paws4People Foundation and a school in Georgia, in which children on the autism spectrum help train puppies who will one day be service dogs. Specifically, they help socialize the dogs by taking them out in public to get used to being around people. The payoff for the kids is that they have an opportunity to work on their own social skills as they interact with people who are curious about the puppies.
Have Them Spend Some Time Around Other Dogs
As BrightHubEducation.com notes your child may not automatically bond with the dog. This can happen for a number of reasons, but one might be that your child just doesn’t interact well with or is afraid of dogs. You can find out if that’s the case before you start the process of getting a service dog by providing opportunities for your child to interact with dogs. If a neighbor or friend has a dog that you know to be calm and playful, set up a few meetings to see how your child reacts to being around the animal. These meetings will also give you a chance to see if your child has a dog allergy.
Make Sure the Dog and Your Child Are a Good Match
If you know your child likes dogs, provide opportunities for them to start bonding with their service dog as soon as possible. AutismAssistanceDog.com notes your child and the dog will be “together 24/7 and they must be able to work together.” Check with the organization training your dog to see when your child can start spending time with their dog so that they can begin the bonding process before you bring the dog home.
Prepare Them for Dog Downsides
Sure, autism service dogs are a great, and they can work wonders for their humans. However, they are still dogs and come with normal dog drawbacks. For example, make sure your child knows that it will be necessary to clean often to keep pet odor to a minimum. And parents should keep in mind paying the fee for a service dog is just the start. There will also be vet bills and ongoing expenses—such as food.
Getting an autism service dog can be exciting for a child on the autism spectrum and bring on a sense of relief for parents. When you take certain steps before bringing your dog home, you can help ensure your child gets as many benefits as possible from their new four-legged helper.
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Vee Cecil lives in Kentucky with her husband and two children, where she is a personal trainer, bootcamp instructor and wellness coach. She is passionate about fitness, nutrition and her family and recently launched a blog where she shares information on how to lead a happy, healthy lifestyle.