What is an autism support dog?

A mother of a child with autism explains the impact of having an autism support dog:

Thanks to Shaw TV's Pet Tales for filming this interview.

The goal of our charity is to improve the quality of life of children with autism and their family by providing a trained autism support dog. We rely entirely on donations so that we can provide these dogs free of charge to families. It takes up to 2 years and costs our charity up to $35,000 to produce each autism support dog. We currently serve families in British Columbia and Alberta.

Although each and every child with autism is unique, many exhibit behaviors that lead to safety concerns (child bolts away suddenly) and social isolation both within the family and amongst other children.

For parents and family members, this results in highly stressful daily life and an inability to function normally in social situations. For example, not being able to go to the mall or to a restaurant. 

How do autism support dogs help children?

The benefits of having an autism support dog are different for every child because each child is unique. 

Some of the benefits that can be experienced are:

  1. Increased safety for the child (prevents the child from bolting)
  2. Parent has better control of the child by commanding the dog
  3. Passively teaches the child responsibility
  4. Positive changes in behavior (lower aggression/frustration levels for the child)
  5. Child is comforted by the dog when he/she is upset
  6. Gives parents and the child a higher degree of predictability in social settings
  7. Under the B.C. Guide Animal Act and Alberta's Service Dogs Act, autism support dogs enjoy the right of full public access in restaurants, on transit etc.

An autism support dog can improve the child's ability to participate in education, social and leisure activities because the canine reduces the stress associated with interacting with other people and getting involved in social situations.

Read the heart-warming stories from families with an autism support dog.