Trained Dogs to Accompany Autistic Children

July 18, 2011

A non-profit organization has devised a system which pairs trained canines with human partners suffering from autism.

A non-profit organization in New Zealand, Assistance Dogs New Zealand, has devised a system which pairs trained canines with human partners suffering from autism, as well as other disorders such as Down syndrome and diabetes.

A similar service is offered in the states by the organization Autism Service Dogs of America.

In the instances of a child being the partner in need of a canine friend, the organization trains dogs to follow the instructions of the parents instead of the child.

“If they are shopping and the mother wants to grab something off the shelf in the shop, she can tell the dog to stay and anchor the child,” reported Julie Hancox, the assistant of Dogs Trainer.

Hancox stated that children living with autism typically have a difficult time relating themselves to other humans due to poor social skills.

For children living with autism, man’s best friend can become a very good buddy, particularly for children who have trouble talking and playing with other children. The canine companion can also serve as a social tool for the autistic child, who could learn a measure of self reliance through the animal interaction.

"The child can walk along with the parent without any kind of hand grabbing or that sort of thing,” stated Hancox. “We've found the kids walk really well. [The children] learn to walk beside the dog and if they dash ahead the dog will resist and anchor them.”