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Autism remains a mysterious and devastating affliction in the world. Poorly understood, it is sometimes slow to diagnose, resulting in unhappy childhoods for the children suffering from it as well as their families, who find the communication problems, emotional instability, and lack of social development in their child to be frustrating and ominous. This is often followed by intense guilt when the diagnosis is made and they feel that they have been unfair to a child suffering from a disorder that often makes “normal” behaviour impossible.
The good news is that there are many therapies that both the autistic child and their family can engage in that can help them assimilate more effectively into society and help the family adjust to their new reality. And one of the most effective strategies is the introduction of a service dog to the life of the autistic child – and more often than not, the ideal breed for an autism service dog is the Australian Labradoodle.
Service dogs for the autistic serve different roles than service dogs for other handicaps, such as the deaf, blind, or even mentally challenged. Autistic children are often highly functioning, able to understand complex subjects and perform at high mental levels, but have extreme difficulty with social interaction and emotional control. Outbursts are very common, as are angry episodes and anxiety attacks.
In these scenarios, trained service dogs have been shown to act as an emotional and social anchor for the autistic child. Continuity of experience is often comforting for the autistic, and the dog provides a calm through-line in the day, a constant presence that the autistic child can rely on to comfort them even in unfamiliar or anxiety-causing situations. In addition, the dog provides an affectionate companion that does not judge or require opaque social rules that the autistic often find confusing and meaningless, allowing for a stress-free relationship that has been proven to reduce anxiety and emotional stress.
Part of what makes the Australian Labradoodle ideal for service dog duty is their innate personalities. They are calm, affectionate animals that are easy to train. The latter is very important, because training a dog to be a service animal for the autistic takes time, and must generally begin when the dog is quite young – often right after birth. Labradoodle puppies must be trained specifically in indoor living, neonatal stimulation, behavioural moulding, and socializing with people of both sexes and all ages.
Dogs as young as 8 weeks can and often are deployed to families dealing with autistic children. Introducing the puppy at such a young age allows for a deep bond to develop between the child and the animal, which increases the chances of a successful service relationship. However, the Labradoodle must pass a training certification before it can be deployed as a service dog and some puppies require more lengthy training periods.
The warm, friendly personality of the Australian Labradoodle has made it an ideal candidate to be a service dog, especially with the emotionally and socially difficult affliction of autism. The fact that the family itself can also enjoy the dog simply as a wonderful pet is also an advantage, as Australian Labradoodles can easily serve both roles.
If you would like to find out more facts about Australian Labradoodles, check out our About Labradoodles section.