GRACE AND ROCKY
“They adore each other Carmelina you couldn’t have picked a better partner for Grace! Rocky is doing amazing in his training and has never missed one of Grace’s meltdowns; even without us prompting him, he goes straight to her and won’t leave her until she’s calmed down…which happens much faster now that she has Rocky. It’s been one of the best decisions we’ve made to have a service dog for Grace, but we could not have ever imagined what an amazing dog Rocky has turned out to be…thank you doesn’t even begin to let you know how grateful we are! “
Raising an Autistic child is a uniquely challenging job requiring a tremendous amount of time and effort. Parents constantly looking for any and all ways they can help their child control his repetitive behavior or improve his self-care, social and communication skills.
Scientists now believe that Autism and the other Autistic Spectrum Disorders are caused by poor connectivity within and between major brain structures. Genetic and other factors come into play but ultimately autistic behaviors are outcomes of how their brains are ‘wired’.
Autism remains a mysterious and devastating affliction in the world. Poorly understood, it is sometimes slow to diagnose, resulting in unhappy childhoods for the children suffering from it as well as their families, who find the communication problems, emotional instability, and lack of social development in their child to be frustrating and ominous. This is often followed by intense guilt when the diagnosis is made and they feel that they have been unfair to a child suffering from a disorder that often makes “normal” behavior impossible.
The good news is that there are many therapies that both the autistic child and their family can engage in that can help them assimilate more effectively into society and help the family adjust to their new reality. And one of the most effective strategies is the introduction of a service dog to the life of the autistic child – and more often than not, the ideal breed for an autism service dog is the Australian Labradoodle.
A Friend in Need
“Grace has had a few struggles, with school and readjusting… and now the transition to summer poor girl, but Rocky has been by her side all the way through it…omg he is worth his weight in gold! Rocky has NOT missed one meltdown yet…doesn’t matter where Grace is in the home Rocky finds her right away as soon as she starts to lose control…and he will NOT leave her until she’s settled! Grace has even started to ask for her “dog” when she feels upset…omg he’s amazing!!! So smart, so gentle and oh so loving…although right now he’s bouncing around like a rabbit and banging into everything…so yes still a goofy puppy…
Service dogs for the autistic serve different roles than service dogs for other handicaps, such as the deaf, blind, or even mentally challenged. Autistic children are often highly functioning, able to understand complex subjects and perform at high mental levels, but have extreme difficulty with social interaction and emotional control. Outbursts are very common, as are angry episodes and anxiety attacks.
In these scenarios, trained service dogs have been shown to act as an emotional and social anchor for the autistic child. Continuity of experience is often comforting for the autistic, and the dog provides a calm through-line in the day, a constant presence that the autistic child can rely on to comfort them even in unfamiliar or anxiety-causing situations. In addition, the dog provides an affectionate companion that does not judge or require opaque social rules that the autistic often find confusing and meaningless, allowing for a stress-free relationship that has been proven to reduce anxiety and emotional stress.
Part of what makes the Labradoodle ideal for service dog duty is their innate personalities. They are calm, affectionate animals that are easy to train. The latter is very important, because training a dog to be a service animal for the autistic takes time, and must generally begin when the dog is quite young – often right after birth. Labradoodle puppies must be trained specifically in indoor living, neonatal stimulation, behavioural molding, and socializing with people of both sexes and all ages.
Dogs as young as 8 weeks can and often are deployed to families dealing with autistic children. Introducing the puppy at such a young age allows for a deep bond to develop between the child and the animal, which increases the chances of a successful service relationship. However, the Labradoodle must pass a training certification before it can be deployed as a service dog and some puppies require more lengthy training periods.
The warm, friendly personality of the Labradoodle has made it an ideal candidate to be a service dog, especially with the emotionally and socially difficult affliction of autism. The fact that the family itself can also enjoy the dog simply as a wonderful pet is also an advantage, as Labradoodles can easily serve both roles.