Autism Assistance Dogs

Leo, our own Autism Companion.

Leo, our own Autism Companion.

As you may know, we recently got a puppy because we had read that dogs are good for children on the autistic spectrum.

Leo is still a puppy and has just started training with the scariest dog handler ever, but already he has bonded with our eldest son. Despite instructions from the trainer to ‘ignore the dog’, our eldest always has to say good morning and good night to the pup and to be quite honest, this makes him so happy I am disregarding the trainer (at the risk of being told off and made to lie down submissively at his feet..).

Our eldest takes him for a walk sometimes before school, always after it, and has already taught him to sit. Because he is very sensorily sensitive and volatile, I had imagined having a dog would provide comfort for him when his is angry with the rest of the family or feels unfairly treated (which is quite often, to his mind). To my great joy, this seems to be the case already. The dog has given him something to care about that isn’t himself and this is quite amazing.

However, training is a long process and having a dog is a large and long-lasting undertaking, however beneficial it might be for the children. I have just found a site that offers Autism Assistance Dogs that might be worth considering if you have autistic children between 3 & 10 and are thinking of having a dog.

The site, at http://www.support-dogs.org.uk/AADogs.htm says, “Our Autism Assistance Dog programme is designed to improve the quality of life of families with autistic children. It is based on the principle of providing a fully trained dog to the parents and the autistic child along with the correct training and support to ensure that the dog works to the maximum of its abilities.”

This kind of dog would not be not be necessary for our family, for example, as our boys are high-functioning, although our youngest has a nasty habit of walking out in front of cars. But I can see how useful one could be for more severely affected children. Disability Support dogs aren’t just for autistic children, but for those with other disabilities, especially epilepsy.

Take a look at their site – it’s a cause well worth supporting. Donate if you can.

The dog, the hand-washing and the ASD child.

As you may have read, we’ve just got a puppy, a labradoodle. He’s very cute and has transformed our elder ASD son’s life. The dog is the first thing he thinks about in the morning and the last thing on his mind at night. He’s even okay at scooping the poop without fuss, although washing his hands afterwards is a bit more of a problem.

Our younger son, who loves dogs, has got the hang of the hand washing, just not the dog. He is definitely not the pack leader where the puppy is concerned. The dog jumps and nips at him all the time which Son2 finds very distressing because he loves to pet him. The hand-washing though is going over the top. Son2 has always been known as a very, very clean child. He never forgets to cleanse his hands after using the lavatory and spends so long in the shower I’m surprised Al Gore isn’t on our doorstep offering a lecture on water wastage.

Every time Son2 so much as brushes against the puppy with his hands, he’s at the sink, massaging soap into his fingers and doing an inadequate rinse job. It’s become so bad that in the space of two weeks, he’s come down with eczema on his knuckles. Turns out, he was using washing up liquid instead of handwash and, despite it being an eco-friendly detergent, it’s apparently not done his skin any good at all. He’s now been prescribed a special handwash by the doctor that he can use as much as he likes and he carries a tube of aqueous cream around in his pocket for use at school. Sadly however, I think getting the dog to see him as anything more than another play thing is going to take longer to sort out.

The new arrival

I am not a doggie person. My husband is not a doggie person. And yet, yesterday, we brought home a puppy. Leo the Labradoodle.

We have read that dogs are supposedly good for children with autistic spectrum disorders and so, putting our own lack of need for a furry friend to one side, we searched for an allergy-friendly pup (as my husband is allergic) and Leo is who we found.

Leo the Labradoodle

Leo the Labradoodle

He has taken to his crate and dog bed as if it had been his from birth. He is already asking to be let out for his business and the boys have fallen in love with him, as have we. Son2, however, is not so keen yet on actually touching him and every time he does, carefully washes his hands immediately afterwards. Having a dog has made no difference however, to Son1’s hand-washing habits, or lack thereof.

All of a sudden, Son1 & Son2 have become puppy experts, telling us what to do and how to do it. They have already spent much less time in front of the TV and used less computer time as they check on their charge and ensure he has everything he needs. This is actually not too much as he sleeps a lot of the time at the moment.

Neither child has taken the opportunity to scoop the poop yet, but it will only be a matter of time and when he is big enough to go for walks, this is Son1’s department as he is rather like a puppy himself and needs walking every day.

I have taken to heart The Dog Whisperer‘s advice that you must be pack leader to be in charge of your pooch and I have decided that this is the same for raising boys too, even those with Asperger’s, if not more so. I think this whole dog thing is going to work rather nicely.