There are few things as remarkable as a guide dog. The fact we can take an entirely different species and teach it how to be a protector is simply astonishing. Yet, these animals are so common now, that it’s easy to take them for granted. We see them in restaurants, on sidewalks, trotting through supermarkets, and even at the cinema. They are an established part of modern life, so we don’t really get excited about them anymore. In fact, unless you have a personal reason to get to know therapy dogs, it’s hard to grasp the extent of their impact. Guide dogs and other types of support dog have the potential to change lives. They restore independence and help vulnerable people feel confident and capable. The history of using canines for therapeutic purposes stretches back to the Second World War. However, it didn’t become routine practice until the seventies. Today, we understand a great deal about the way dogs communicate and which breeds make the best helpers. This has led to a substantial increase in the number of dogs being used for autism therapy.
Learning How to Live with an Autistic Child
Ironically, there is still much we don’t understand about autism. We know it’s defined by difficulties with social interaction and impulse control. When the condition develops in childhood, sufferers tend to struggle with communication. Some children speak very little, while others struggle to express emotion and can seem very cold to those around them. Autistic children are a big challenge for parents. They shun contact, show little affection, and don’t play well with others. Despite this, most autistic people are highly intelligent. Many have an extraordinary aptitude for numbers and excel at logical, mechanical tasks. The truth is most autistic individuals have the ability to be successful in life, but they may need lifelong support. Therapy dogs are ideal for children because they are a calming, nonverbal presence. The child can pet and stroke the animal, and it won’t demand any kind of explanation or understanding from them. It is non-judgmental, non-threatening, and eager to form a bond that isn’t governed by the complexities of human interaction.