Autism Service dogs- Organizations training them are in SERIOUS need of reform! - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 32 (permalink) Old 03-19-2011, 10:07 PM Thread Starter
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Autism Service dogs- Organizations training them are in SERIOUS need of reform!

As all of you or most of you know Nimrodel is my autism service dog. She is my first service dog and she means the world to me. Last few years I have been looking into applying to organizations for my next autism service dog but am going to do owner training instead but through my research I have discovered something really tragic.


THE AUTISM SERVICE DOG ORGANIZATIONS ARE INS SEROUS NEED OF REFORM!!!!!!


So many organizations train these dogs to make money. here are some MAJOR flaws I have found


1. Many places cant or wont give you a list of basic tasks they train but rather refer to theses dogs as a "tool to center the child," ....um ok but how? what do they teach? most organizations are placing well trained dogs (not tasks trained) slapping the term autism service dog on them and placing them. I have had many tell me they helped train an autism service dog for a family when I asked what tasks they tough they said the kids was so high functioning they didn't need to train any tasks. so they basically trained an ESA (emotional support animal) and labeled it a service dog! Owner training is a wonderful thing but an autism service dog must have tasks otherwise it is not legally a service dog and only an emotional support animal.


2. THEY ONLY TRAIN THEM FOR CHILDREN!!!!!!!!!!! This really makes me angry! So many organizations would not place me with an autism service dog because of my age! I am 24 and thus not eligible for an autism service dog according to many organizations. Most organizations put an age limit of 5-14 years on average! so what I hit puberty and I am cured? I don't think so! I am still autistic puberty hasn't changed that at all!I need a dog just as much as an autistic child to give me independence and freedom. because of my service dog I CAN be home alone and go out on my own I can handle more adult situations.


3. Autism service dogs are described as "dogs trained to interrupt repetitive and self stimulatory behaviors. there is a lot more to autism services dogs the that! Service dog central has a very good example and explanation Autism service dogs to me are a cross between hearing and seeing dogs with some extra tasks!

Tasks for Autism Service Dogs | Service Dog Central


4. "cookie cutter" organizations. there are also organizations that don't train the dog to the individual specific needs but rather according to a set predetermined list of tasks


5.
TASKS they don't normally train autism service dogs to be a cross between a hearing and guide dog as i described but have a limited amount of tasks that they train and often don't combine the seeing and hearing tasks that are highly beneficial and needed for adults on the spectrum.






Autism Service Dog Tasks


Symptom/ challenge Task trained


Impulsive running: Dog retrieves individual


PICA: Interrupts behavior


Self harming behavior: Will interrupt behavior


Night Awakenings: Alert parents by barking or climb into bed with individual


Non-verbal: offer behavior when person tries to command


Social Isolation:
Focus shifts to dog.


Fire alarms: Dog alerts the individual and gets them out


meltdowns: Dog climbs in lap to calm individual


Streets: Dog will stop individual from walking right out


Sneaking out: Alerts parents by barking


Nightmares: Dog will crawl into bed to calm individual


Wandering: Track and find individual/ offer protection


Dropped item: refuses to move till the item is picked up or will retrieve the item


Separated from in crowds: seeks out person (find the person the individual was with and was exasperated from)


Over whelmed or over stimulate: dog will lead individual to exit or a quiet area.

not noticing alarm clock knock on the door or phone: Dog nudges and alerts handler to alarm/phone or knocking.

Other tasks may also be trained as well especial if there are multiple conditions. i.e. Seizure alert.




if I left anything out let me Know


Note some organizations out there are very good but they are few, rare and hard to find

Last edited by AutismDogGirl; 03-19-2011 at 10:15 PM.
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post #2 of 32 (permalink) Old 03-20-2011, 12:15 AM
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You have hit on several points that some of us seem to be running in circles with our complaints. For me it is so refreshing to see someone posting here on the subject that mirrors so many of my own thoughts, beliefs, opinions.

Autistic children do grow up into adults but it seems almost all orgnizations train and place only for children. In my opinion why is that?

Ease of Fundraising. Look at articles in a paper or on blogs on fundraising. An article hits the local paper on a young child doing some fundraising and they toss is some pictures of a cute little child (look at all of them after the fact) and the community almost falls over themselves in donating funds. Now fast forward to someone in their 20s and sorry but someone in their mid 20s doesn't quite pull the heartstrings as much as a sweet little 6 year old. For a 30 or 40 years old yeah good luck coming up with more than a couple individuals that send in small checks. Not quite a believer -- just look at the titles and see those that are on the order of "Whole town of XXXX step up to help (insert age) year old boy/girl (for some reason most seem to be boys) raise money to purchase dog."

Use a search engine and you will find tons of civic clubs and people donating large amounts for a child's dog and have to scramble to find any for an adult.

New Market. There is a large current market for autism dogs for children. Just look how many responses there were in several of the threads here that were basically, "Hey, I know someone at work or I have a relative with a young child and I'm going to tell them about SDs for their child." Parents line up to be put on a list for these dogs through the various organizations that are easily found via the Internet. From there they are given instructions on how to fund raise for these quite expensive dogs.

Now go to these same organizations and ask if they train for adults and most will respond as if the asker is from another planet. Nope, No, Nada. Can't do. Think I am exaggerating, well sorry I've spoken to too many young through older adults who not only call these organizations who only can not help them but have no idea who can not to start wondering why.

Now before someone may feel that I'm anti child organizations nothiing could be farther from the truth as I myself have formed and run a non-profit based on needs of children. I just also deal with teens and adults on issues also.

Cost of dog vrs. needed training. Besides the relative ease of fundraising for many organizations for SDs for children only is the relative ease of training. Take a look at the tasks needed for a child. Most dogs trained for a young child have basically few trained "tasks" besides household manners and basic obedience. They act as anchors to keep a child from bolting and/or alert if a child leaves a certain area. A few are trained some basic tracking but this is often training that fades quickly as tracking is something that needs to be reinforced on a consistent basis and not something taught once and only pulled out rarely.

Now go forward to where this young child ages and is more independent and needs a dog to go out as a single handler/dog team to attend high school and college. What about adults going out into the work force? These dogs need advanced skills which of course means advanced training which equals more time and expense.

So can't help it but over time with seeing a dog offered to be part of a child/adult/dog team where the dog is an obedient companion animal mostly being used as such along with the ability to put the brakes on to keep a child from running off going from $14,000 and up some of us find it harder to accept these costs. More hard are the organizations that send a barely trained young dog home with the family with instructions on how to finish the dog's training.

Here is a question that I would like to toss out. If it is pretty common for those involved with training a SD for an adult to say it averages 18-24 months to bring a SD candidate puppy through SDIT to SD then how is it possible to place a 6 to 12 month old pup with a young child and family and claim it is a dog that should be thought of as a trained (and accepted as such) SD?

And before any take offense with my opinion and state why I am wrong which anyone has the right to do so, I want to stress that the above is my opinion and I feel I have spent quite some time and spoke to enough individuals and groups to feel comfortable with coming to this opinion.

TJ aka Theresa A. Jennings
Pyro vom Wildhaus aka Kaleb ~S.T.A.R.~
Family Companion, Non-Profit Mascot, In-Home Service Dog


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post #3 of 32 (permalink) Old 03-20-2011, 12:45 AM
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Originally Posted by ILGHAUS View Post
Not quite a believer -- just look at the titles and see those that are on the order of "Whole town of XXXX step up to help (insert age) year old boy/girl (for some reason most seem to be boys) raise money to purchase dog."
That's coz boys are 3 to 4 times more likely to develop autism. My little one (4 years old, high functioning) could DEFINITELY benefit from a support dog (his teacher and therapists all agree), and we'd LOVE to be able to train Jakey to assist him, but sadly, there doesn't seem to be any organization who will train your existing pet to meet those needs. Everyone wants you to buy their puppies. I know it could be done, since 90% of search/rescue dogs are shelter-saved dogs. I've seen news pieces on life-assist dogs who were on the shelter's death row before being taken in to assist the elderly with their needs. If all that can be done, why not a dog in a loving family, who already have established a relationship with the dog, to bring that relationship to a new level?

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post #4 of 32 (permalink) Old 03-20-2011, 12:47 AM
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I don't know a lot about service dogs, but I have a 6 year old son on the spectrum. Our GSD sleeps with him or in front of his door, will wake me up when he wonders at night though I do have a baby monitor in his room and locks on all doors and windows he can't open them even with a chair, and she does naturally lays on him and licsk his face to calm him. These behaviors weren't trained- they are simply instinctive for her. She follows him everywhere and is protective to the point of having to be isolated from him when we have guests because she becomes aggressive when people or other children touch him- she is no candidate as a service dog,lol

So this is my question and please please don't be offended but I have always wanted to ask. Why do people with autism need a service dog? Yes they can disrupt meltdowns and prevent destructive behavior- Zoe has been a godsend for his meltdowns that turned into him hurting himself and/or breaking things in my home...those behaviors are gone because of her and yes have been helpful. However, in my opinion people with autism NEED to learn coping skills emotionally and how to care for themselves in every day life- is a dog that offers coping skills healthy for these kids? How will they learn to deal with the world when a dog has done it for them?

I get disrupting seizures or providing other honest tasks life, and saving alerts- but it seems even you agree many of these autism dogs are offering nothing but therapeutic comfort and not trained to perform actual necessary tasks the person could not learn on their own. Isn't that the point of an SD? To perform needed daily tasks the owner PSYCHICALLY can not perform? I know the bond my son shares with our GSD rivals the bond I have with him if not actually surpassing that. She can't judge him and doesn't require him to understand her, empathize, talk to her, or relate to her in anyway. She is an easy friend because she expects nothing from him and he's real good at that. Personal connections and understanding of human behavior will never be his strong point. He doesn't understand how people feel or even think about i,t and yes a dog is a great friend- but why are we giving good 4 legged friends the title of an SD?

I have worked hard to teach my son facial expressions and connecting them to emotions, he's had years of therapy for his sensory issues, to learn to dress himself, chew food, write his name, read, and interact with peers his own age. I've had to teach him how to have a conversation without mimicking, echoing, or changing the topic to whatever he is obsessed with and these are things we have to continue everyday because it is not natural- but he is starting to stop himself and realize when he is performing an unwanted behavior.

So if we give kids these dogs who don't naturally know how to modulate their own behaviors or interact appropriately with peers aren't we stunting their emotional growth? How will they ever become independent?
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post #5 of 32 (permalink) Old 03-20-2011, 01:08 AM
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So this is my question and please please don't be offended but I have always wanted to ask. Why do people with autism need a service dog? [SNIP] However, in my opinion people with autism NEED to learn coping skills emotionally and how to care for themselves in every day life- is a dog that offers coping skills healthy for these kids? How will they learn to deal with the world when a dog has done it for them?
[SNIP]
So if we give kids these dogs who don't naturally know how to modulate their own behaviors or interact appropriately with peers aren't we stunting their emotional growth? How will they ever become independent?
I was hit by a car as a kid, while riding my bike. Banged my knee up pretty bad. Crappy doc said it was a mere sprain, so did nothing. Turns out I have ligament damage, so my knee acts up often. I use a cane during changes in the weather or when it's cold outside. Sure I can walk either way, but the cane makes it easier to deal with the pain in my leg, and helps me keep my balance. It's a tool, so I use it (plus it has cool flames on it, so I look awesome while using it!)

Same thing with service dogs. They are a tool to assist the person with managing their disability. Most of these children get therapy to help with the disorder, but often their are limits to what the child can do. If a service animal can nudge them enough to meet the next level, I'm all for it. Odds are, the autistic individual will need someone as a tether to the outside world, whether it's a dog, or a nurse, or a family member. Total independence is often not an option. It hurts to think about, but that is always there, in the back of my mind.

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post #6 of 32 (permalink) Old 03-20-2011, 02:13 AM
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Actually most children on the spectrum will and do grow independent and quite able to perform everyday tasks. Are they "normal" no, but they are not physically impaired either as with your knee, or with a blind or deaf person who absolutely can not perform certain tasks without assistance. Part of any autistic child's therapy is learning how to navigate the world emotionally and the people who live in it. So a child who has learned to only bond with an animal and rely on that animal is kinda at an emotional disadvantage. It's not that I don't think a therapy dog is good for the autistic individual in some ways, but I don't see them as actual "service dogs" in many cases nor think they are necessary. People with autism suffer from deficiencies in communication and social skills and a dog can't teach those.
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post #7 of 32 (permalink) Old 03-20-2011, 02:40 AM
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Actually most children on the spectrum will and do grow independent and quite able to perform everyday tasks. Are they "normal" no, but they are not physically impaired either as with your knee, or with a blind or deaf person who absolutely can not perform certain tasks without assistance. Part of any autistic child's therapy is learning how to navigate the world emotionally and the people who live in it. So a child who has learned to only bond with an animal and rely on that animal is kinda at an emotional disadvantage. It's not that I don't think a therapy dog is good for the autistic individual in some ways, but I don't see them as actual "service dogs" in many cases nor think they are necessary. People with autism suffer from deficiencies in communication and social skills and a dog can't teach those.
True, but service dogs aren't for those individuals. I don't recommend a service dog for every single case, but for cases where it would be helpful (as in my son, who is a runner, as well as self-injury, and has other impairments that a dog, properly trained, could help him with.) Also, the dog isn't there to teach the social skills, the dog is there to provide a sense of security for the autistic person when they are out in public. An anchor, if you will.

I honestly can see both sides of the issue. I just don't want to discount any potential tool for helping children cope with this disorder. Especially a tool in it's infancy.

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post #8 of 32 (permalink) Old 03-20-2011, 10:40 AM
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OP seems rather high functioning for someone with autism, so I'm not sure I understand why the dog is a "service dog" and not an emotional support dog?
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post #9 of 32 (permalink) Old 03-20-2011, 12:31 PM Thread Starter
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OP seems rather high functioning for someone with autism, so I'm not sure I understand why the dog is a "service dog" and not an emotional support dog?
Nimrodel is a service dog because she is task trained. Emotional support animals are not task trained. -short answer

long answer- When it come to my functioning level yes I am high functioning in the sense that I have a high verbal IQ and can speak fluently (most of the time emergencies are a different situation all together same as when I am upset) but my verbal abilities don't reflect on my other areas of functioning. I am defiantly not on the highest functioning end. I still live at home and cant live alone without support. I am also unable to drive and I know there are other on the high end of the spectrum who live alone and drive.

What are my daily struggles with autism?

I still have sensory issues and struggle to handle load crowded areas and these can easily cause sensory overload. When I am wrapped up in my obsessions I often will block out most sensory info such as auditory or it will process slower and will not notice things like fire alarms or at other times the sudden alarm will startle me causing me to panic and hide or cover my ears and try to process whats hapening

comuniction-I am unable to read people and can not read deception. I have very limited facail expression and body language and struggle to maintain a conversation. evan these threads take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to write because i need to get up and walk in circles inorder to plan out the wording this is the sme for the videos I make. The training videos are all scripted

I obsess and still struggle to talk outside my obsession ( note my current obsession autism service dogs and German Shepherds)

I am often off in my own world," and have a tendence note to process thing like streets and such when I am

Meltdowns- I have those still ussualy when plans or routines change and during sensory overload my meltdowns range from mild to severe and at the more severe end I have SIB (self injurious behavior like head punching and arm bitting none of wich are in my control

Selfcare issues- I am able to use the potty and shower and cook but I struggle with selfcare things like eating as in I will forget to eat untill I am extremely hungery when I am alone and often wont bother to cook but look for what is easy to make or already cooked. Doctors dentist and such forget it those are always a struggle I hate them (except regular checkup at the doctors but the dentist evan a simple cleaning is really hard for me to handle.


Sleep- I have a lot of trouble sleeping and have frequant night awakenings and nightmares

Wandering: I tend to wander when I am off in my own world and hen I wonder I don't process most dangers

this is a very well done Article on autism and wandering by Samantha Driscole- Welcome to Facebook - Log In, Sign Up or Learn More

Miscalneous- I have coordination issues and frequently drop things and have a tendency to loose things do to this

relationships- I struggle to make friends and maitane friendships as.

these are only a few things I struggle with in brief.

What Are Nimrodel's service dog tasks to help me with some of thees?

Nimrodel's Tasks

Night Awakenings: climbs into bed with me and will rest her head on my chest or lay across my legs to offer deeppressure to help me get back to sleep

Self harming behavior: Nimrodel Will interrupt and redirect behavior by licking y face or arms then will lay across my lap to offer calming deep pressure to help me get through the meltdown

Fire alarms:Nimrodel alerts to them when I am tuning them ot and if needed gets them out of the area with a "Outside," comand

meltdowns: Nimrodel climbs in my lap as stated in self harming


Streets: Nimrodel will stop me from walking right out by sitting or laying down and refusing to more until the street is clear. She will also cut me off by stepping in front of me

Wandering: Track me if I have one off without her but normaly I am with her and she will stop me from walking off into streets watches me if I am near water if I get lost she will also track or way back home by back tracking our sent trail.

Separated from in crowds: seeks out person I was with and reunites me with them

Over whelmed or over stimulate: Nimrodel will lead me to an exit or a quiet area.

not noticing alarm clock knock on the door or phone: Nimrodelwill nudge me and will alert me to alarm/phone or knocking by nudging me and walking to what needs my attention

Medication:
Nimrodel alerts me to when it is time to take my medicine (for a thyroid issue)

Nightmare: Same as night awakenings

Socialization: people approach me and ask about her and she helps me make friends

my next SD will also be trained to

turn on lights on comand
retrieve help on comand
retrive dropped or forgotten object
(may have other to not sure)
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post #10 of 32 (permalink) Old 03-20-2011, 02:13 PM
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I guess my confusion is this - just because a dog is trained tasks doesn't make them a service dog. Those tasks must be necessary for the person who is needing the dog. Everything you described sounds to me like an emotional support animal.

How does your dog tell and keep track of time to tell you to take medication? you seem awfully high functioning to be a danger to yourself in regards to walking into a street with a vehicle coming, or ignore a fire alarm, wandering into a pond and drowning, etc...
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