The American Psychiatric Association defines autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as a complex developmental condition involving persistent challenges with social communication, restricted interests, and repetitive behavior. Commonly referred to as autism, the term “autism” was changed to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by the American Psychiatric Association in 2013. ASD is the diagnostic label given to autistic disorder, Asperger’s syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS).
Facts, Figures & Reality
- (2) In the US, an estimated 1 in 54 children are affected by ASD according to the Centers for Disease Control.
- Signs of ASD are usually evident by the age of 2 or 3.
- There is no cure or one cause for ASD. Medical research points to a combination of genetic and non-genetic, or environmental, influences.
- Characteristics that can make life challenging for both the children and families include: Social communication and interaction skills, restrictive or repetitive behaviors or interests, delayed language, movement or cognitive skills, hyperactivity and seizures.
A Necessary Blessing
It’s impossible to know exactly what a family or child is coping with when symptoms of ASD create a number of life hurdles, we can only sympathize. To make matters worse, parents usually have to wait for extended periods of time before receiving the assistance their child requires. (3) Although the recommended maximum wait time between initial referral and ASD diagnosis is 5 months, the average time between parents’ initial concerns with their child’s development and diagnosis is generally between 2 and 4 years. Combine this with the (4) average waiting time of 2-5 years to receive a Service Dog and the possibility of a family attaining legitimate assistance is minuscule.
An Autism Service Dog is not for every family, but the life-altering significance for families who receive one is monumental. Examples and real-life stories detailing the quality of life improvements include:
- Expansion of verbal and nonverbal communication
- Improvement of social interactions
- Peace of mind with children who are “runners”
- The ability of the Service Dog to redirect, comfort, be tethered to and/or give confidence to the child allows for the parents to bring their child with them for everyday tasks many of us take for granted.
These specially trained Service Dogs will have the capacity to learn as many as 40 different tasks. The foundational tasks will include basic and advanced obedience, advanced tactile tolerance and advanced environmental socialization. Specialized training will be developed individually for each child’s requirements.
Elopement is common for children with ASD. This is when a child will either run or wander away from their parents without notice. It is very rare for Autism Service Dogs to be specially trained to assist in these situations. All children who are “runners” will be teamed with a Service Dog who is proficient in tracking the child’s scent on command.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2021). What is Autism Spectrum Disorder? Retrieved from: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/autism/what-is-autism-spectrum-disorder
- CDC. (2021). Signs and Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorders. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/signs.html
- Health Services Insight. (2020). “Managing the Wait”: Parents’ Experiences in Accessing Diagnostic and Treatment Services for Children and Adolescents Diagnosed With Autism Spectrum Disorder. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6987484/
- Genesis Assistance Dogs, Inc. (2021). Retrieved from: https://genesisassistancedogsinc.org/how-to-get-a-service-dog-in-florida/