An Autism Service Dog is a dog specially trained for the unique challenges facing children with Autism.
What is Tethering and how will it help?
Tethering creates a 3 man team when we are out in public with Thor. He will wear a special harness that will be connected to his service dog while I handle the leash that is also connected to the dog. Tethering will allow Thor more freedom when out in public to explore his world without having to have his hand held constantly to keep him from wandering away. The security of having his best friend always at his side to keep him safe will help him to gain independence as he gets older.
What is behavior disruption?
Autistic children often have unique behaviors such as flapping, spinning, teeth grinding, self-injury, and emotional meltdowns. Thor is no exception...his service dog will be trained to watch (or listen) for these unique behaviors and place itself in a position to disrupt the behavior by placing a paw on him or even laying themselves on his lap to distract him from the behavior. Thor's "meltdowns" can often get violent and overwhelming for both him and anyone else around. Having a cool head in such a situation will most often stop them before they get out of hand.
Meltdowns: isn't that just another way to say "temper tantrum"?
No. Children with autism are often overwhelmed, and over stimulated by everything around them. Sights, sounds and smells can be so intense that they are not able to process them and can even be painful. Thor is mostly non-verbal and cannot tell me that the light is too bright or the noise is too loud or that he can't handle one more stop on our errands list. He doesn't understand the concept of time or having to wait. All of these things and many more lead to emotional outbursts, meltdowns, and self injury (banging his head on hard surfaces, slapping or punching himself).
Why does Thor need a dog that can track?
Thor is very curious and energetic, with no real sense of danger. He is not able to tell someone he is lost or even tell them his name. His service dog will be able to sniff him out and lead us to him quickly if his adventurous side takes over and he wanders or hides.
Are there any other benefits of having an Autism Service Dog?
In addition to the specific training, an autism service dog will also provide Thor with a constant companion and best friend. Structure and routine are things he craves but is not always possible (going new places, meeting new people, changes in routines, etc). His service dog will be able to provide that one piece of constant structure in his chaotic world.
Thor's service dog will also help him to build relationships with peers and help with communication skills. Most everyone loves a friendly dog and will stop and ask what the dogs name is or if they can pet them. This small interaction will give Thor a chance to build his social skills.
Why did you choose 4 Paws for Ability? Aren’t there other agencies that will provide a service dog for free?
4 Paws was the first agency to begin placing skilled autism service dogs and continues to be the largest organization in the United States and the only organization placing in other Countries (like Canada!) - and also the only place to train autism assistance dogs with tracking and willing to place a dog with someone as young as Thor.
While smaller organizations are attempting to duplicate their services, 4 Paws remains the organization that many autism groups both at the national and local levels recommend to their families.
As the founding agency of autism assistance dogs with tracking they continue to provide the highest quality of dogs to every child that applies. 4 Paws, unlike almost every other agency does not pick and choose whose child will get a dog. As long as the child's physician approves the dog and it is safe to place a dog in the home, no family is turned away. They continue their services with no long waiting lists and continue as always to "partner" with the families to provide the autism service dog their child needs.