Gracie is now a fully certified service dog! It has been a while since we have updated her page, but she has been one since the Spring of 2017! Gracie accompanies Ms. Brieann to the offices to help out our AASL friends. She’s also taken one trip out of state and flown on an airplane when the hurricane came through in 2019 and was a champ! Gracie fills a special role here at AASL and comforts not only our clients but also the entire AASL team! We are so proud of Gracie and all she’s accomplished in the 5 wonderful years she’s been with Ms. Brieann!
What is a Service Dog?
Service dogs are dogs that have undergone an in-depth level of training to learn and perform a specific job reliably in all settings and environments. A service dog is not the same as an emotional support dog. While service dogs can help from an emotional standpoint, their main purpose is to provide independence and security for a disabled individual, by performing specific assigned tasks. Both types of dogs, though, provide their handlers a side benefit of complete cuteness and companionship…that’s an added plus!
The presence of animals in therapy can help support a handler toward his or her therapeutic goals. Dogs can help physical and occupational therapy become even more productive and motivating. Physically speaking, a service dog accompanying a child to therapy will be able to help the child accomplish certain tasks, for example, walking and standing up. What’s better is that a service dog can make therapy “work” feel less overwhelming or challenging. When a Rover is along for the ride, what used to be a therapy session becomes a time of bonding that may feel more like “play”. This can do wonders for a child’s motivation and can quicken progress as a result!
Dogs can also assist with communication development, especially speech and language, because they often encourage children to increase their vocalizations. A service dog in therapy or even the home setting may become a partner for a child to purposefully communicate with more so than another individual. It is common for a child to say words about or directly to a furry friend, and dogs can help promote other skills along the way. For some children, the presence of these companions may help to encourage speech and language skill development.
There are cases in which service dogs are a better fit than emotional support dogs, for someone with emotional needs. If a person’s emotions prevent him from being independent or put him in danger, he may qualify for an actual service dog. For instance, some individuals with certain disabilities feel overwhelming emotions and are prone to violent outbursts, which can harm themselves and others. This is the perfect scenario for a service dog to step in and accomplish two tasks: intervene to prevent the behavior from escalating and calm the person down to stop the behavior altogether.
Dogs can also prevent emotional outbursts from happening in the first place, especially when they occur due to anxiety or anger. The presence of a dog can increase the owner’s confidence to a point that she feels secure and in control. Oftentimes, this prevents outbursts from even happening.
Social Benefits of a Service Dog
Service dogs have an added bonus of helping those with disabilities function more easily in social settings. The presence of their companion may provide added confidence and a sense of calm in these often unpredictable or anxiety-causing social situations. A service dog may also be a starting point or act as an introduction to invite others to approach the person with the disability; they may provide an initial reason to engage in conversation or approach in a friendlier more openminded manner. In all, a service dog companion may allow for added social opportunities that would otherwise be harder to come by and provide their handlers more confidence to socialize.
Service Dogs Aren’t for Everyone…but There’s a Dog for You
If your child isn’t qualified to receive a service dog, don’t abandon your goal to find a helpful and loving companion for her. Therapy dogs, emotional support dogs, and companion animals are a wonderful way to bring a lovable fur friend into your child’s life and promote the growth, confidence and development that go along with this relationship with man’s best friend. There are many breeds of dogs that make great companions for children. Generally, it’s best to find one that is very calm, docile, and small enough for your child to handle on his own. There are plenty of organizations that provide dogs to fit a variety of needs, and they have resources to help you find out which type of dog is best for you. Good luck and happy hound hunting!References: https://adata.org/factsheet/service-animals https://www.autismspeaks.org/expert-opinion/service-dog-or-therapy-dog-which-best-child-autism https://www.autismservicedogsofamerica.org/ https://www.epilepsy.com/learn/seizure-first-aid-and-safety/seizure-dogs https://www.cerebralpalsy.org/information/service-animals/types-service-animals
DISCLAIMER: Information published about one particular disorder does not necessarily apply to every individual who has the disorder discussed in this article. Treatments and therapies are highly individual and must be customized to the needs of each person to be effective. Do not make changes to your/your child’s treatment plan as a result of what you read in this article (or any content published by AASL) without consulting your/your child’s physicians and therapists. This content does not necessarily reflect the opinions of All About Speech and Language or its therapists. To understand the opinions and recommendations of your/your child’s AASL therapist, schedule an appointment with your therapist to discuss your concerns.