Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Dog Therapy: The Latest Addition To The List Of Therapies For Autism

Animals, over the years, have proven their inestimable importance in the treatment procedures of individuals with special needs. For instance, persons with visual impairments are accompanied by trained Seeing-Eye dogs to adequately negotiate their physical environment and avoid any accidents. A growing number of researchers and doctors have propounded the theory that dogs can be used in the treatment of autistic individuals, for not only do they provide physical protection, but also emotional support.
"Autism dogs" are trained to provide assistance to individuals with autism spectrum disorder. These dogs are physically connected to the autistic individual by means of chains or ropes for either of the two following reasons.
  • Firstly, these "service dogs" ensure the safety of the autistic individual. For instance, they will prevent a child with autism from darting across a busy street. If the child has a tendency to walk wayward and get lost, then the dog can prevent the child from straying off by virtue of its own weight. These service dogs are also trained to follow instructions from parents. They are trained to notify the parents if they sense any danger. Such instances may involve the moments when the autistic child is unhappy and has a propensity towards causing harm to himself/herself. The presence of a dog is like an additional source of security, as it is not always possible for a parent/care-taker/relative to accompany the autistic child.

  • Secondly, proponents of this method also state that the child tends to develop an emotional relation with the "service dog". Moreover, the presence of the animal can help to minimize, and gradually eliminate the frequency of emotional outbursts that are common among autistic children. The dog can also function as the focal point for conversing with other children. In this way, the autistic child will also develop his/her language and communication skills.
There are numerous testimonials that attest the effectiveness of "Dog Therapy" in the treatment of autism. Two primary outcomes have been observed:
  • Enhanced physical security and safety.

  • Enhanced emotional, retentive and social skills.
Parents and family members need to submit applications for obtaining a "service dog" to the organizations where they are available, like 4 Paws For Ability, National Service Dogs, Autism Service Dogs Of America etc. The cost incurred is approximately around 20,000 dollars. The basis of procurement of a service dog does not, in any way, depend on the severity of the debilitating condition, or the age of the autistic child. The application does not focus on the autistic child's level of functionality.
Once the application has been granted, then the parents of the autistic child can work in unison with the trainer and condition the dog to get habituated to the particular conditions of the autistic child. Moreover, the dog is also trained to follow instructions given by the parents.
The definite causes of autism, and the particular chemicals that can improve the condition are still much debated, just as the several complementary non-invasive therapies that are aimed at the overall cognitive, linguistic and emotional development of the autistic child. "Dog Therapy" is yet another addition to the list of contested therapies for autism treatment. Yet, it has already proven its success, as children who undergo this therapy are safe from accidents, and can develop their emotional skills.
Donald Kevin is a researcher working at an autism clinic in California. In this article, he provides important information regarding methods for Autistic Treatment.
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