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Things to Consider Before Getting an Autism Service Dog for Your Child

Most commonly, when we think of service dogs we think about guide dogs for the visually impaired. But through the years, the use of service dogs has expanded into other areas. Today, in addition to the visually impaired, they’re used to assist people with physical disabilities, anxiety disorders, diabetes, and yes, people on the autism spectrum.

The benefits of autism service dogs are proving to be truly remarkable. They assist people on the autism spectrum with everything from completing daily tasks to preventing wandering to acting as a calming presence during overwhelming situations. If you think an autism service dog could benefit your child, here are a few factors to consider:

Sensory issues. One of the great things about autism service dogs is that they are trained to aid children on the autism spectrum who have sensory issues. So, if a child becomes overwhelmed in a crowded, noisy store, for example, the dog is trained to be a calming presence for the child. However, as this guide on autism service dogs notes, your child’s sensory issues should be taken into consideration when you’re deciding whether to get a dog and when you’re choosing the type of dog to get. For example, the article explains that if your child is sensitive to rough textures, you won’t want a dog with wiry fur. Or if your child is sensitive to loud noises, you’ll want to be sure the trainer addresses barking.

Cost. Because of the extensive training required to prepare a dog to work with a child, service dogs are quite expensive. As this information from Autism Service Dogs of America indicates, they can cost $10,000+. That said, as ASDA notes, there are many ways to raise the funds for your child’s dog. It suggests approaching family and friends for donations or using community events for fundraising. But don’t let this scare you from trying to get a dog for your child. Because fundraising for dogs is so common, many training organizations can provide you with information to help you get started.

Your child’s specific needs. Children with ASD are affected by it in different ways. Something that’s challenging for one child on the autism spectrum may not be so for another and vice versa. As this article on autism service dog training explains, the animals can be trained to help your child in different ways—from leading them out of dangerous situations to helping them remember necessary objects before leaving the house. So, if your child needs help in a specific area, be sure that it is addressed in the dog’s training.

Home prep. Autism service dogs may seem like super heroes, but at the end of the day, they’re still dogs. And having a dog in your home will affect you and your family in certain ways. For example, are you prepared to do the extra cleaning needed in order to remove pet odor or to protect other family members who might have pet allergies? Are you prepared for the extra expenses associated with having a dog, such as buying food and paying vet bills? Your child might be ready for an autism service dog, but it’s important to make sure the entire household is ready as everyone will be affected in some way.

The growing use of autism service dogs is exciting and very promising for people on the autism spectrum. But because it is still a developing practice, it’s important for parents to consider all aspects of getting a service dog before they take the leap. That way, if you do decide a dog is the right fit for your child, you’ll be prepared and you can help ensure your child is able to maximize the benefits of working with their service dog.

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Vee Cecil is passionate about wellness for humans and their four-legged friends. She is a wellness coach and personal trainer, and recently launched a blog where she shares her favorite health tips, tricks and recipes.

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