Autism Assistance Dogs

Not many children are fortunate enough to have a companion as devoted as Axle is to his friend Jordan, and for a child with an autism spectrum disorder this type of unconditional friendship can be especially meaningful.  

Axle is one of Australia’s first autism assistance dogs, and he and Jordan are rarely spotted doing anything separately.

In fact, the two will be seeing even more of each other this term, because Axle is due to start work in a school setting. Because of this, he will be able to accompany his friend on a daily basis, and serve as a welcome emotional support in a new environment that can be intimidating or anxiety producing to children with autism.

Children with autism spectrum disorders often have difficulty picking up on and responding appropriately to social and emotional cues. Because of this they may experience trouble forging close friendships with peers. However, this does not mean that these children do not value these relationships. A companion like Axle can be of tremendous importance, not only because other children are immediately drawn to the dog and his owner, but because Axel’s presence is a soothing and familiar one to Jordan in an otherwise novel environment.

Jordan‘s mother Rebecca Schuh is thrilled with the advantages of this new arrangement. She marvels that Jordan will be able to walk the halls confidently, and takes comfort in the knowledge that even when times are tough, her son will have a constant companion by his side. 

 “Imagine how much easier it will be for Jordan when he can go to school with a dog who can shake hands and high-five to break the ice,” she exclaimed. “They have been together for about two-and-a-half years now and we couldn’t live without Axle.”

Axle is more than just a friend to Jordan, however. The therapeutic advantages that he offers go far beyond an ordinary companionship, and extend to the practical and critical realms of symptom reduction and basic safety. Axle is trained to gently interrupt Jordan when he is engaged in the repetitive self stimulating behaviors that are so common to autism spectrum disorders. He is also able to prevent Jordan from running away by dropping to the ground when he senses that Jordan is straying too far. In the event that Jordan ever did run away, Axel’s safety training would come in handy by allowing him to track him easily.

Axle has proven to be much more than just a friendly face. The sense of security and well being he provides has made him a welcome member of the family.  

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 By Alex Arkin