Service dogs are not only adorable family members, they provide numerous advantages for a variety of individuals with disabilities. They have become increasingly popular for children with special needs. Learn all the benefits of a service dog for disabled children, the types of disabilities service animals can assist with, and what it would look like to add this special animal to your family.
Who Can Benefit From a Service Dog?
The range of helpful tools a service dog can provide makes them a great fit for a wide range of individuals. No two people with special needs are alike, and the appropriate level of care and support systems vary greatly.
According to the ADA National Network, a service dog is any dog specifically trained to perform tasks for a disabled individual that they would otherwise have difficulty completing on their own. Each service dog is specially trained for their owner. A service dog may help people with mobility problems, visual or hearing impairments, epilepsy, diabetes, anxiety disorders, or developmental disorders such as autism.
Types of Service Dogs for Children with Disabilities
There are more than a dozen types of service dogs. When it comes to supporting children with disabilities, three commonly used examples of service dogs include:
- Brace/Mobility Support Dogs (BMSD)
For children who wear a specially designed harness or brace, a brace/mobility support dog is highly trained to support a child while walking. Stability is provided to children who require assistance remaining steady and balanced on their feet, when standing up, sitting down, or bending over.
- Autism Assistance Dogs
Service dogs can also provide support service to children with autism. Children with autism spectrum disorder often feel calmer and safer with this type of assistance. Depending on the needs of the child, these dogs are trained to provide tactile or deep pressure stimulation for sensory needs, maintain personal boundaries, and assist with a variety of daily tasks. These dogs are sometimes called Sensory Processing Disorder Dogs.
- Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSDs)
Similar to autism assistance dogs, this type of service animal benefits people with all types of psychiatric disabilities. This might include calming a child who has anxiety or helping a child recover from a panic attack. PSDs also provide support for those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression.
Other types of service dogs include Seizure Response Dogs, Diabetic Alert Dogs, Visual Assistance Dogs, Hearing Dogs, Wheelchair Assistance Dogs, and Medical Alert Dogs.
Benefits of a Service Dog for Disabled Children
The benefits of a service dog for children with special needs are numerous. Research-based evidence shows that service dogs provide an improved sense of independence and emotional well-being.
- Physical Benefits
Support provided by service dogs varies based on the individual needs of the handler, but safety is improved in every setting.
Some of the tasks these dogs perform include retrieving items, offering calming support, alerting the child to low blood pressure warnings or seizures, giving guidance to a person who is blind or deaf, and helping provide stability.
These well-trained creatures can do some fascinating things — help their handlers move from a wheelchair to a bed or toilet, unload clothing from a dryer, and press elevator buttons.
For those who experience seizures, a service dog can detect the onset of a seizure and help get them to a safe place. The dog can even go find help after the seizure is over.
To help those with limited mobility, a service animal can offer balance for unstable walking and prevent falls.
- Emotional Benefits
The companionship provided by a service dog is incomparable for many handlers. They provide a sense of security, consistent care, and a friend who will help ease the challenges of daily tasks.
These kind and hard-working animals offer a level of independence that is appreciated by their handlers. Service animals create a sense of freedom, allowing owners to know they can manage numerous tasks without having to rely on other humans.
Confidence and self-esteem are increased in social settings, while anxiety is diminished. Although safety is a physical benefit, the confidence of feeling safe with your service dog can be life-changing.
Life With a Service Dog
What would it look like to have a service dog in your family, providing personalized child disability services? In the Little Rock area, Arkansas Service Dogs is a Sherwood training center for service dogs. They believe everyone with a disability should have the chance to feel secure and independent. This is exactly what a service dog can do for your child.
A service animal can legally go anywhere the general public is allowed, and you are not required to share the nature of the disability with anyone. These hard workers typically wear a special harness or cape to let others know they are working and not to be disturbed on the job.
A service animal might go with your child to school, the mall, a friend’s house, a restaurant, or the movies. They may sleep with their owner to be present for seizures and other alerts or issues.
How to Get a Service Animal for Your Child
While a service dog can be an investment, some programs exist to help offset the cost of acquiring one. For more information about getting a service dog in your area, check out Pet Partners, Autism Service Dogs of America, International Guide Dog Federation, or Assistance Dogs International.
Children who do not qualify for a service dog but would benefit from a service animal might do well with an emotional support dog, which is another type of service animal, or even a well-trained pet. The difference between these animals is that a service dog is highly trained and helps support the owner by performing tasks made difficult by the owner’s disability. An emotional support animal is not always trained as specifically and is intended to improve the owner’s health, especially emotionally.
For More Information
If you wish to learn more about service animals for your child with special needs, check out the resources provided by your friends at Integrity, Inc. We provide information about autistic child support services in Little Rock or treatment for autism in Little Rock and child disability services in Little Rock and the surrounding areas. No matter what your support needs are, we can help! Contact us today for more information.