More and more people are now facing the world of Autism with a loving, trained companion by their side. Dogs can make a big difference to someone with autism, helping with confidence, reducing anxiety, encouraging fewer meltdowns, improving communication, and helping families do more together.
To celebrate World Autism Awareness Week, we’ve invited our Explorer Eliana to shares her experience with autism and how dogs can help.
I’m celebrating World Autism Week, not only because I’m autistic but because it means so much more to me. Today I’m sharing my story and the reason why dogs are such an important part of our lives. They help with so many issues and disabilities including autism, and since having her, my beautiful pooch Duchess has helped me in more ways than you will ever know. Dogs love their owners no matter what.
I was diagnosed at age 10 with Aspergers, shortly after being diagnosed with severe GAD and depression. I (along with everyone with autism) was born this way. I’ve always been “different” and even though no one knew why they still bullied me for it. My family always assumed my autism was just my quirks and didn’t think much of it until after my diagnosis – everything started to make sense.
At first, I was terrified of my diagnosis even though all it did was add a label to my “quirks”. My grandparents didn’t take my diagnosis well either and got annoyed at me for having autism. They didn’t want the doctor to put it on my records with the belief that no one would employ me. Their reaction hit me quite hard. The last thing you want is for your family to hate you because of your brain! It was this very reason that I was terrified to tell my friends or anyone at school so I didn’t and still haven’t.
Autism affects your life in more ways than one, it affects the way your brain sees and processes things but also affects everything else you do. For me, it affects all my senses so I can’t handle certain textures, smells, sounds, tastes or images (ie. ones that can be two things or that move) without having a slight meltdown over it. It affects my emotions, I can only understand basic emotions whether they’re my own or belong to someone else. My autism affects the way I learn, I can only learn visually, so I can only learn something if I see it rather than someone telling me something.
This is just how I am, it’s how I always have been and always will be and I’m ok with that but some people aren’t and that’s what needs to change.
How Dogs Help Dog Owners With Autism
Dogs love their owners no matter what and always want to help them with any issues they may have, here’s some ways dogs help their owners with autism
Dogs can be a great source of comfort and act as the best companion for people with autism. They offer non-judgemental, unconditional love and friendship. This is a big part of anyone’s lives but can have a huge impact on autistic people, especially children.
Builds Social Skills and Confidence
Children can especially benefit from the company of a dog as they provide a safe space. They can also create opportunities for children to practice social skills and gain more confidence. It has also been proven that the presence of a dog can help aid children to have fewer meltdowns.
Dogs Can Do More Than Tricks
Dogs can perform a number of tasks to aid or remind their owner of things they need to do. This can be anything from the basics like eating, getting up and personal hygiene. It can also include more complex tasks they may need help with like grounding to prevent panic attacks.
Dogs Live in a Sensory-Based World, Too
Dogs live in an unfiltered, sensory-based world just like adults and children on the autism spectrum do. For this reason, people with autism can create a much deeper emotional bond with dogs.
Does it matter if my dog isn’t an assistance dog?
No, any dog can perform the tasks provided their owners to teach them how. The only real difference is an assistance dog has the same rights as a guide dog so can aid their owner all the time no matter where they are.
I hope this blog has helped you to understand autism and how dogs can help with it. Please share your stories below, and post any questions you may have.
Follow @duchess.doodle to keep up with Eliana and Duchess’ adventures.