What does an Autism Service Dog Do?

Many people are very excited about helping us get an Autism Service Dog for Tristan, and the most common question I’m asked is, “What exactly do service dogs DO for Autistic kids?”

I recently wrote a post about the biggest reason we are applying for an Autism Service Dog and how the Retreat as a fundraising event came to be.  But I wanted to fully answer this question many of you are asking as well as provide information that you can share with others when you are talking up the Retreat and inviting friends to join us in November! 🙂

So here are some of the things that a Service Dog can help Tristan and our family with:

Tethering – We can tether Tristan to the service dog so he will not run away.  (Click here to read about the problem of “elopement” in kids with Autism.)   Tethering will enable us to leave the house and enjoy “normal” activities as a family.  We currently don’t take Tristan many places, and when we do, we have to remain super vigilant and stay very close to him to make sure he stays safe.  Often we just choose to stay home because of the stress of keeping track of him, or the exhaustion that results from having to chase him all over the place each time he takes off running.  Parking lots are especially stressful!  With the dog we can run errands and enjoy fun family outings with less stress and fear.  When the child is tethered, adults can give commands to the dog depending on whether you need the child to stop and wait or walk calmly with the rest of the family.

Tracking & Searching – Whether we are at home or out and about, there is always the fear that Tristan will run off and we won’t see which direction he went.  We have extra locks on our doors, but Tristan has still gotten out a few times and has also “disappeared” for short periods when we were away from home.  It gets harder and harder to “contain” him the older he has gotten.  Autism Dogs are trained to track and search for your child if they wander away from safety.  Every minute counts when searching for a lost child – especially if there is water nearby!

Help with Sleep – Tristan has a sleep disorder which is a condition often co-morbid with  Autism.  He often wakes in the middle of the night and stays awake for HOURS.  It’s common that sleeping with their service dogs helps kids stay asleep throughout the night.  We are hoping an Autism Dog will help Tristan sleep!

Seizure Alert – Autism is often accompanied by seizures.  Tristan has had one seizure (that we know of).  A dog can alert us to an oncoming seizure even in the middle of the night.

Increase Social Skills – Tristan has many challenges making social connections with others.  The Autism Dogs create a kind of “bridge” to others and lengthens interactions so that kids with Autism get more time and more practice “being social.”

Calming Meltdowns – Service dogs can help soothe kids during meltdowns often associated with sensory processing difficulties.  They can even sometimes anticipate the meltdown (or respond before it gets out of hand) and offer pressure or other soothing sensory input to help the child cope.

Comfort During Medical Procedures – Autism is now known to be a “whole body” disorder affecting (or some say stemming from) problems in the immune system, digestive system, respiratory system, endocrine system and elsewhere in the body.  Treatment for Autism and medical comorbidities often require frequent blood draws and other uncomfortable procedures and dogs can offer calming comfort during doctor’s visits and procedures.

So as you can see there are many ways that these Angels-Disguised-As-Dogs can help kids with Autism and their families deal with the challenges that Autism presents.
If you’d like to help Tristan get his Service Dog you can:

  1. Join us at the Radiant Living & Learning Retreat November 15-18
    (single day tickets are also available)
    The proceeds from this event will got toward Tristan’s Service Dog Fund.
  2. Invite your friends to the Retreat and invite them to join our Facebook Group.
  3. If you can’t come to the Retreat, please visit and share our FundRazr page.
    I am continually humbled by the generosity of friends and strangers who have contributed online.  Thanks for spreading the word!