CHILDREN WITH AUTISM AND LABRADOODLES
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.
So what we do to help in the training process is hugging the puppies 3 or more times per day making them very social to touch, rubbing there bodies placing our fingers through their hair, playing with there ears as the puppy needs to get accustom to being touched continuously helping them become calm with touch/feel daily. Children with Autism have a desire to constantly want attention, so touching, talking playing and having the company of a pet whom responds to there needs. Pressure therapy is a type of rub where there is minimal pressure to get the puppy accustom to a child’s constant touch. Many children with autism seem to need to smell everything to feed their sensory input. This may be related to the need to gain more information through a sensory channel with which they are more comfortable. Providing pleasing smells may be helpful, but it is probably more helpful to improve the other sensory systems for gaining information.
Ways to Help People with Autism and Sensory Sensitivities Feel Safe and Grounded
- Learn about their potential triggers: Every individual experiences sensory difficulties differently. Ask what affects them and how it feels in their body. Be patient if they are having difficulty describing sensations. Just listen.
- Encourage the use of headphones in public spaces to minimize over stimulation. Allow them to do what they need to regulate without suggesting judgment or social appropriateness. Self-care is always appropriate.
- Offer toys for stimulation that help reduce anxiety and improve concentration. Small toys like fidget spinners, silly putty, and magnets have become popularized for individuals with and without sensory processing issues. The use of toys meets emotional needs as well as encouraging playfulness and creativity.
- Teach them mindfulness skills. When struggling with over stimulation, one of the easiest resources to access is focusing on one’s breath. Whether this is for awareness or control, it helps the body to self-regulate by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. Mindfulness encourages people to separate the specific senses that are overwhelming them so that they can identify specific interventions to regulate those senses. Mindfulness strengthens one’s sense of preconception and understanding where their body is in space and time using grounding techniques.
- Encourage them to advocate for their sensory needs in classrooms and social settings. Remind them that although other people may not understand their sensory differences, they can educate them on how to better help them adjust to the environment without judgment.
- Create and seek out sensory-conscious environments. If parks are too crowded, find a trail. If movie theaters are overstimulating, find a library. In a classroom, allow students to stand up, sit on the ground, or to walk around if it helps improve focus. Look for movement-based activities that encourage grounding and coordination, such as yoga, walking, tai chi, or dance. Lower the volume of music. Dim lights.
Common Sensory Sensitivities:
- Loud sounds
- Bright lights
- Noticing small changes in the environment
- Having trouble filtering out background noises
- Clumsiness and lack of coordination
- Being fidgety
- Problems with depth perception
- Difficulty understanding personal space
- Sensitive to being touched, especially when unexpected
- Difficulty integrating multiple sensory inputs at the same time, such as reading lips before they are able to hear someone speak
All our puppies are handled from the minute they are born and the testing we do on each and every puppy are: Cradle the puppy on its back like a baby and that is how they drink from a bottle we place a hand gently on its chest looking at his eye, they are not afraid of human hands and voices. Actually as soon as they hear my voice the all come towards me with Wagging tales. We also Hold puppies suspended from the armpits and there hind legs dangling they don’t like that as much but once they are placed back on the ground they feel better. Our puppies are surrounded by much noise like Vacuuming, Ongoing Music as they sleep and when awake, they are used to being handled 10 or more times per day and they don’t mind that at all. When puppies go to there forever homes they are not afraid at all there are accustomed to people and toys and sounds. Our customers say they are incredibly easy to train and are absolutely happy the way we train our puppies from the day they enter the world.