In honor of the upcoming National Dog Day on August 26, we’d like to show our appreciation for the furry friends that hold a special place in some of our clients’ heart—service dogs.
A service dog is one that is “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities,” according to the Americans with Disabilities Act. These dogs are not pets, but they can provide the same love and support that other animals can. When most people think of service dogs, they think of guide dogs that assist the blind, but there are a number of other disabilities that these dogs are trained to assist with such as: mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, epilepsy, and most recently, autism.
Researchers at the Sam and Myra Ross Institute at GreenChimneys are studying the effects service dogs have on children with autism in group therapy sessions. So far, they’ve noticed that the children are more eager to attend therapy, which could help them get more from the sessions.
The Mandell family, who was recently profiled by The Star Ledger, have seen the benefits a service dog can have firsthand ever since a Labrador retriever named Hagrid entered their lives two years ago.
Jennifer Mandells’ 7-year-old son Sam was diagnosed with severe autism at 18 months. Sam would not communicate and was prone to run off. Once Hagrid became a member of the Mandell family, there were noticeable improvements in Sam.
A service dog that assists a child with autism wears a vest that is also connected to the child by a belt. The dog is trained to anchor itself if it feels a pull so the child does not run. Over time, it has been shown to reduce the behavior. The dogs also can help autistic children with socialization skills. The service dog’s calming presence may minimize emotional outbursts and help the child participate more in group activities, according to Autism Service Dogs of America.
We want to thank the dedicated service dogs that improve some of our clients’ quality of life. We are always concerned with making our clients as comfortable as possible, and we are incredibly grateful to the four-legged companions that can ease some of their worries.
To learn about some of the other disabilities service dogs assist with, check out this list from Buzzfeed, which features eight different service dogs.