Could a Service Dog Really Be Helpful for Children with Autism?

service dogs for children with autism

Did you know that there are a lot of uses for service dogs? Some people think that they are meant solely for the blind, but that is not the case. This day and age, people are using service dogs to help people with all different types of conditions and ailments- including autism. So, what is it that these dogs do that is causing so many parents of autistic children to seek their assistance?  Let’s find out!


One of the first safety issues for autistic children is that they like to wander off, especially when they are in public. This can be a scary feeling, but with a trained service dog the child can be found through scent tracking. They can also help to keep them from roaming off at times, especially if they are tethered to the animal. This can help to give parents an extra hand while they are out and about, and can also help to improve the safety of the child.

Behavior Modification

Believe it or not, a service dog is actually a great tool when it comes to behavior modification. Whether your child takes part in self harm behaviors or other unacceptable behaviors, the dog can help to divert the behavior to something more positive. This is also effective when it comes to calming a child down after a meltdown. Any time the child is agitated or overwhelmed, the dog will be able to sense it and redirect their attention through love and affection to the child.


One of the biggest issues that autistic children have involves their security. Sometimes, even in the safest of situations they will not feel secure in their surroundings. Change is difficult to adapt to, but with a service dog, adapting to change and feeling secure is not as difficult. The child can associate the pup with safety and security.


Autism is a social disorder, and children with this condition often have a hard time in social settings. Many of them even become reclusive. The good news is that a service dog can actually boost social skills. It can be a great conversation starter, which is really helpful, especially for children with high functioning autism. Many of them have the ability to communicate, but the hang up comes with starting conversations and holding conversations.

Emotional and Physical Assistance

Did you know that a service dog can assist an autistic child in a lot of different ways? They can offer both emotional and physical assistance. They can help them when it comes to sleeping in their own bed, bathing alone, getting dressed, and even offer emotional support while having to wait in lines or deal with people in public. These can all be very scary situations for children with autism, but with a service dog by their side it can make things much easier to deal with.

Choosing the Right Service Dog for Your Child

If you think that a service dog could be right for your child, there are a few things that you will want to consider. Sometimes, it is best to go through an agency that matches children with a service dog, but other people may just want to train a dog to be a service dog. Training is important, and it is essential for the dog to be trained to do the following:

  • remain calm, even in a crowd
  • be friendly, even to strangers
  • walk with or without a leash
  • sit and stay until they are released
  • remain well behaved around other dogs
  • listen to commands
  • refrain from jumping on people
  • focus on your child
  • not succumb to distractions
  • not be lured by treats or toys

It is not easy to just start with the family pup and train them to do these things. Training should be intensive and comprehensive. Without proper training, you may not get the results that you hope to get out of having a service dog for your child.

Aidan Akar, 6-year-old boy with Autism, finds support from service dog:

One of the best things that you can do is look into a service dog agency in your area. They will be able to point you in the right direction when it comes to getting paired up with the right service dog. They will also be able to help you adjust to having the dog around, and help you to become familiar with the commands that are used to get the dog to do certain things.

Remember, it can take a little bit of time to really get used to having the dog around to help. Once your family has grown close to the pup, they will actually be of great assistance to your child.

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2 Responses

  1. My daughter’s therapist has actually recommended a service dog as a part of her treatment plan. She has Asperger’s syndrome, which is on the Autism spectrum. We have met a few service dogs, and they are trying to match Kaylee with a dog that will be great for her. We are excited and hope to see improvements.

  2. As a parent of a child with Autism, I can definitely say without a shadow of a doubt that having a dog can be of help! We don’t have a service dog, per se, but we do have a dog. He really helps Connor to cope with stressful situations and overstimulation.

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