Author Topic: Service dog and ASD  (Read 366 times)

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Offline rnc4088

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Service dog and ASD
« on: December 29, 2017, 05:12:40 AM »
Hello there! I managed to stumble across this forum and I've been doing some serious reading through the information here. First let me say, this board is an amazing resource and all of you are so incredibly helpful and insightful. I'm currently in the mid stages of looking into potentially acquiring a SD to help mitigate my ASD at the suggestion of my therapist. I think I've come to the conclusion that a SD could be very beneficial to me to help me gain a more independent life and help reduce how much my wife is acting like my caretaker to help me in public, but I would greatly appreciate any additional input, advice, recommendations, etc any of you may have before truly embarking down this road. With a rather invisible disability, it is difficult to know exactly what a task would look like that would be compelling enough to warrant the assistance of a SD. Sorry this is probably going to be really long. I'm bad about that. Working on it.

A little background on me to help you get an idea of what I need. As I said I have ASD (aspergers under DSM-IV and ASD under DSM-V so take your pick) and the last 12 years have been pretty rough on me. The last year and a half I have been working really hard to mitigate the impact of ASD on my life so I can live a happier, healthier, more independent life. At this point I am still struggling badly with sensory processing, getting overloaded from that, and then dealing with the fallout/consequences. I basically do not leave the house by myself right now unless it is for work, and I have all kinds of issues at work (still despite accommodations).

I read about the recommendation to come up with a list of items you would like a robot to perform for you that would help mitigate your condition and then translate that into feasible SD tasks where appropriate (btw SO HELPFUL). At this point I've come up with the following tasks that would be great for a robot to do for me:

  • Stop me from just walking off a curb into traffic. When I've had too much sensory stimulation, my brain takes longer to process important pieces of information like that is a moving car heading toward me and I struggle to remember to stop and give myself time to process in those situations on my own.
  • Help balance me when walking through crowds to find a safe place during episodes of sensory overload. I struggle to maintain a sense of my body in space and struggle with coordination causing me to run into people/things (and injuring myself/others sometimes as a result) when facing sensory overload.
  • Alert me to when people are approaching my cubicle at work.
  • Help extricate me from social situations when I am getting overwhelmed and my verbal communication is greatly diminished.
  • Alert me to when I am engaging in my stimming behaviors, and help re-direct me when I am engaging in some of my more destructive stims.
  • Provide DPT.
  • Get my wife when I am experiencing a meltdown.
  • Remind me to eat meals at least twice a day.

Now for these kind of tasks, I'm not sure what is feasible to expect to train a SD to do realistically. Can a SD be trained to stop, check, and notify me no vehicles are approaching before stepping off a curb in some capacity (I'm really not too clear on the role guiding eye dogs facilitate this for the visually impaired) so that I also end up stopping, checking, and processing appropriately? For balance, I don't need the dog to support my body weight but more to walk touching me so I can orient myself in space better and help me avoid walking into things like poles, mailboxes, car mirrors, walls, etc. when I'm experiencing sensory overload (I cannot reasonably spend my life in sunglasses and noise cancelling headphones). Is that a reasonable task to train?

I already have work accommodations to help reduce people approaching my cubical without first checking if it is okay to stop by, but the check in before you swing by is only something done within my department. I'm still routinely getting approached by non-departmental people and since I wear super noise cancelling headphones at work and cannot see people approaching since my back is to them, it is super disruptive and overwhelming to me so I cannot effectively communicate with people after it happens. Would a SD alerting me to people like that to help prevent me from getting overwhelmed and shutting down be considered a task? Can you legitimately task train a SD in some capacity to help reduce overload from social situations? I generally just need to leave in those circumstances, but I have an extremely difficult time trying to appropriately contrive a way to leave that doesn't involve me just getting up and walking away, and I was wondering if anyone knew of a legitimate task a SD can be trained to do to help provide a more natural out?

The rest are pretty straightforward. I don't notice when I'm engaging in my stimming behaviors, but if someone tells me I can stop and it is really helpful because it helps me check in with myself and adjust as necessary. My wife is usually the one to do this, but she can't be with me 24/7. Carrying a weighted blanket out around in public is not practical, so a SD would definitely help with DPT when out and about by myself. DPT is most beneficial and calming to me across my legs (specifically my thighs), so a golden sized SD would be enough to really provide that for me. I also know there would be zero confusion with emotional comfort for that one for me because when I need DPT, I need the pressure and that is the only thing I find comforting. I have no desire to pet or cuddle or snuggle when I need DPT. Eating is also a huge struggle for me. I often don't register I'm hungry, but I will never forget to feed an animal in my care, so if there is a way to train a SD to remind me to eat when I feed them, it would really help regulate my moods and overall well being, which allows me to function better. Not sure if that would be considered a task or not though.

Thank you for any input or suggestions you may have. I really just want to be able to enjoy my life, be independent, and not struggle so much every single day or have to rely so heavily on my wife just to get by.


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Re: Service dog and ASD
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2017, 01:17:00 PM »
Hi, and Welcom!  I'm glad you've joined us!

We do have a good sized contengient of adults on the spectrum with autism service dogs or emotional support animals and a lot of good information to share.
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Offline Moonsong

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Re: Service dog and ASD
« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2017, 01:37:55 PM »
Hiya! I also have autism, and many of my dog's tasks will be aimed at mitigating that (along with PTSD).

We had a thread recently about stopping at curbs, here's the link: http://servicedogcentral.org/forum/index.php?topic=46157.msg339707#msg339707.

This is also a great description of how Kirsten uses a similar task http://servicedogcentral.org/forum/index.php?topic=45479.msg332725#msg332725. The link should take you straight to her post, but just in case it doesn't the one I'm referencing is reply #1.


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Offline Azariah

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Re: Service dog and ASD
« Reply #3 on: December 29, 2017, 02:04:57 PM »
Welcome. I don't have the same disabilities so can't help a lot with tasks. But I'm happy to offer any other assistance when you have questions. I am in the process of owner training a Samoyed. This is not a common service dog breed but one I had experience with. She is about 18 months.

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Offline Azariah

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Re: Service dog and ASD
« Reply #4 on: December 29, 2017, 02:09:25 PM »
I am married. I can tell you training to get a spouse is doable. And a service dog can provide a lift to  the spouse once trained.
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Offline Summertime.and.Azkaban

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Re: Service dog and ASD
« Reply #5 on: December 29, 2017, 02:21:37 PM »
Hi, welcome! My name is Holli and I'm also on the spectrum.

I can't do an in depth breakdown right now but I can answer some of your questions.

To have a dog capable of discriminating between a clear crosswalk and a busy one you'd probably need to have a trainer who is familiar and experienced with dog guides, or try to convince a guide school to place with you. A few members here use probing canes similar to how the visually impaired use them because their visual sensory processing isn't very functional. I think we have at least one member who uses an actual guide dog because of a sensory processing problem. But training that kind of task is very difficult and can be dangerous if not taught properly.

Alternatively, if you are liable to stay with your dog and not walk away or continue walking without the dog, you may be able to benefit from having the dog simply stop at curbs. That is a lot easier to teach. The dog would stop at curbs and you would be responsible for checking to see if there are cars, then giving your dog a command or "password" to tell him it's okay to start walking again. Kirsten, our administrator uses this task after having seizures and her dog Tardis will only move from the curb if she gives him a "password" which is a command she doesn't remember while coming down from a seizure. This encourages her to stay on the sidewalk until she is coherent enough to remember the password and at that point she is able to check for cars. I intend to utilize this task with my upcoming prospect dog. I am prone to wandering aimlessly and inattentively and having a reminder to look before crossing would be useful.

Would holding a harness handle be beneficial to you when you need help with spatial awareness? I also get wobbly when there's a lot going on and holding the handle of a harness will help give me a point of reference and give me a better understanding of where my body is and where it needs to be. It's also entirely possible to train a dog to heel while bumping into your leg if that would work better.

Alerting to approaching individuals is something that could be taught but someone with experience with that task as a PTSD task or hearing dog task would need to weigh in there, I'm not too sure how one would train it or how early the dog could alert you.

Dogs can be taught to find bathrooms or exits on cue, so that might be useful if you need help getting away from stressful situations.

Alerting to stims would be fairly simple to train.

Have you tried compression garments for DPT? They're usually more effective than a dog.

Dogs can be trained to fetch other people but someone else will have to tell you how that works and would be implemented, I'm not terribly familiar.

It's hard to teach a dog to remind you of something because if you don't acknowledge each and every alert the dog may stop doing it altogether. A dog could learn to alert to an alarm, or he could be taught to pick up a spoon or something and bring it to you during his meal times but it would be up to you to take that signal and remember to eat.

I hope I helped at least a bit, we have some good threads on the autism board and you might be able to find some more good info there as well.
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Re: Service dog and ASD
« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2017, 02:25:50 PM »
There are some guide dog schools now working with adults with autism.  I know two of our members with autism have gotten SPD dogs from GDF.  Niggling in the back of my mind there's another big name guide dog school doing this kind of work but I can't think of it at the moment.
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Offline SandyStern

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Re: Service dog and ASD
« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2017, 02:29:51 PM »
Welcome!
It did occur to me that your tasks closely resembled guide dog work.  Fortunately, those places are well funded and there are enough of them around.

Offline Moonsong

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Re: Service dog and ASD
« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2017, 02:36:02 PM »
I'm still looking into getting a weighted blanket, myself. My plan is that my dog can do emergency DPT while I'm in a place if I get overwhelmed. I've found that dogs are just not very good at DPT; they can do it - totally! But they've got elbows and tucks and all kinds of things that makes the DPT they provide...not great. But hey, it works in a pinch.

So my plan is that my dog can provide just enough DPT to get me in a place where I can go out to my car. He can even help with that! I plan to train him to lead me to various places on command; I can focus purely on following him, which would help a lot. If I someday get a bigger dog, I'd like them to be able to pull me along as well. Anyways - so I intend on keeping a weighted blanket in my car.

So basically, if I were to get overwhelmed somewhere, I would have my dog do some DPT - just enough to get me moving again. Then I possibly have him lead me to my car depending on the severity of the attack. When we're at the car, I use the weighted blanket that is kept in there to provide much more effective DPT. 
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Offline anonymousdog

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Re: Service dog and ASD
« Reply #9 on: December 29, 2017, 02:54:46 PM »
Welcome! I have ASD as well and in the short time I have been here I have found this community to very helpful. It hosts the largest proportion of adults on the spectrum compared to anything i've seen (aside from maybe a site specificically for autistic adults) oddly enough. Several of them are SD partners so I imagine they would be good resources. A lot of things you seem to be seeking a service dog for are similar to my own reasons, though I don't have a dog yet. I look forward to seeing you around the forums.

Also, I understand the eating thing. I could remember to feed my parrot twice a day at the same times every day but forget that I need to eat as well. Strange, isn't it?

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Re: Service dog and ASD
« Reply #10 on: December 29, 2017, 03:01:57 PM »
Yeah, I forget to eat too. Even when I start getting sick to my stomach - if I'm hyperfocused on something I will ignore all other needs. I think I'm kind of doing it right now, actually. Probably time to log off :laugh:.
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Offline Tuttleturtle

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Re: Service dog and ASD
« Reply #11 on: December 29, 2017, 03:16:58 PM »
Now for these kind of tasks, I'm not sure what is feasible to expect to train a SD to do realistically. Can a SD be trained to stop, check, and notify me no vehicles are approaching before stepping off a curb in some capacity (I'm really not too clear on the role guiding eye dogs facilitate this for the visually impaired) so that I also end up stopping, checking, and processing appropriately?

The human has to make the decision of when to cross, not the dog. The dog does not tell you that it is safe to cross. Dogs can tell you where curbs are and can help you stop at curbs, dogs cannot tell you it is safe to cross.
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Offline rnc4088

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Re: Service dog and ASD
« Reply #12 on: December 29, 2017, 04:18:37 PM »
Hiya! I also have autism, and many of my dog's tasks will be aimed at mitigating that (along with PTSD).

We had a thread recently about stopping at curbs, here's the link: http://servicedogcentral.org/forum/index.php?topic=46157.msg339707#msg339707.

This is also a great description of how Kirsten uses a similar task http://servicedogcentral.org/forum/index.php?topic=45479.msg332725#msg332725. The link should take you straight to her post, but just in case it doesn't the one I'm referencing is reply #1.

Thank you for the links! This is really helpful to see the various ways a dog can be trained to a task to help accomplish the same end goal (making sure you're entering streets consciously and safely in this instance). It definitely gives me more to think about.

Hi, welcome! My name is Holli and I'm also on the spectrum.

I can't do an in depth breakdown right now but I can answer some of your questions.

To have a dog capable of discriminating between a clear crosswalk and a busy one you'd probably need to have a trainer who is familiar and experienced with dog guides, or try to convince a guide school to place with you. A few members here use probing canes similar to how the visually impaired use them because their visual sensory processing isn't very functional. I think we have at least one member who uses an actual guide dog because of a sensory processing problem. But training that kind of task is very difficult and can be dangerous if not taught properly.

Alternatively, if you are liable to stay with your dog and not walk away or continue walking without the dog, you may be able to benefit from having the dog simply stop at curbs. That is a lot easier to teach. The dog would stop at curbs and you would be responsible for checking to see if there are cars, then giving your dog a command or "password" to tell him it's okay to start walking again. Kirsten, our administrator uses this task after having seizures and her dog Tardis will only move from the curb if she gives him a "password" which is a command she doesn't remember while coming down from a seizure. This encourages her to stay on the sidewalk until she is coherent enough to remember the password and at that point she is able to check for cars. I intend to utilize this task with my upcoming prospect dog. I am prone to wandering aimlessly and inattentively and having a reminder to look before crossing would be useful.

Would holding a harness handle be beneficial to you when you need help with spatial awareness? I also get wobbly when there's a lot going on and holding the handle of a harness will help give me a point of reference and give me a better understanding of where my body is and where it needs to be. It's also entirely possible to train a dog to heel while bumping into your leg if that would work better.

Alerting to approaching individuals is something that could be taught but someone with experience with that task as a PTSD task or hearing dog task would need to weigh in there, I'm not too sure how one would train it or how early the dog could alert you.

Dogs can be taught to find bathrooms or exits on cue, so that might be useful if you need help getting away from stressful situations.

Alerting to stims would be fairly simple to train.

Have you tried compression garments for DPT? They're usually more effective than a dog.

Dogs can be trained to fetch other people but someone else will have to tell you how that works and would be implemented, I'm not terribly familiar.

It's hard to teach a dog to remind you of something because if you don't acknowledge each and every alert the dog may stop doing it altogether. A dog could learn to alert to an alarm, or he could be taught to pick up a spoon or something and bring it to you during his meal times but it would be up to you to take that signal and remember to eat.

I hope I helped at least a bit, we have some good threads on the autism board and you might be able to find some more good info there as well.


Hi! Thank you for the helpful information! Yes, I won't walk away from my dog (or drag one) and having a dog stop at curbs and not moving until cued is exactly what I need. It will force my brain to go "Why are we stopping.. Oh yeah curb. Cars. Check if we're good. No cars?? No danger?? Okay I can cue to move." Even if I'm processing slow and really struggling, the stopping and not moving would help get me to a better place because and be less overwhelmed since it would force me to focus on something highly specific and concrete in that moment. That ultimately would be more beneficial for me than having a dog learn to discern a busy crosswalk vs not busy in some way for me.

As far as a harness vs bumping me while heeling, that is what I've been wrestling with which would be better for me. I am leaning toward harness for the reasons you mentioned. I think that would be more beneficial to me and help orient me better. I do also worry that training to bump me could backfire since there are times when I'm getting overloaded, need to get away to a safe place, and can become sensitive to touch and don't want anyone touching me, and I have no idea how I would feel about a dog touching me in those situations. I do think holding onto a handle so I can squeeze it with the right pressure that the sensation is not bothering me would be better. I didn't realize they can be reliably trained to find specific places like exits/bathrooms. That would also be hugely helpful.

With the alerting me to people at work, right now people are generally getting my attention by either touching me or shaking my desk since I cannot hear or see them. That is a total nightmare for me. A rearview mirror situation is not sufficient enough and it ultimately creates greater problems by distracting me with people passing by. If a dog could be trained to let me know when someone has stopped at my cube and is behind me before I have someone touching me or shaking my desk, it would be a tremendous help.

As far as the eating thing goes, yeah that one is going to require some thought. Safety reminders I will comply with 100% of the time, but something like eating is definitely more challenging and would require some creativity I think. The spoon idea is a good one though. I do think if a dog did that, I would eat something since in my mind I already have the utensil, so I may as well just grab the food and eat haha. Thank you for the idea. It gives me more to think about and build on.

I hate compression garments. I feel strangled in them. They're too restrictive to get enough pressure that they do anything for me. My relationship with DPT is hate-love. I don't particularly like the sensation (hence why it works best with weight across my legs/thighs instead of my whole body), but it undeniably calms me down and allows me to start processing again.

Again, thank you for all the info and ideas. They really are quite helpful for me.

There are some guide dog schools now working with adults with autism.  I know two of our members with autism have gotten SPD dogs from GDF.  Niggling in the back of my mind there's another big name guide dog school doing this kind of work but I can't think of it at the moment.
Welcome!
It did occur to me that your tasks closely resembled guide dog work.  Fortunately, those places are well funded and there are enough of them around.

That is mind blowing to me. I was starting to look into various programs and becoming really discouraged since a lot of organizations don't seem to work with adults with autism (kids, yes and adults with PTSD, but not adults on the spectrum). I would have never thought to look into guide dogs schools. Thank you!!
« Last Edit: December 29, 2017, 05:01:05 PM by rnc4088 »

Offline rnc4088

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Re: Service dog and ASD
« Reply #13 on: December 29, 2017, 04:57:43 PM »
Welcome! I have ASD as well and in the short time I have been here I have found this community to very helpful. It hosts the largest proportion of adults on the spectrum compared to anything i've seen (aside from maybe a site specificically for autistic adults) oddly enough. Several of them are SD partners so I imagine they would be good resources. A lot of things you seem to be seeking a service dog for are similar to my own reasons, though I don't have a dog yet. I look forward to seeing you around the forums.

Also, I understand the eating thing. I could remember to feed my parrot twice a day at the same times every day but forget that I need to eat as well. Strange, isn't it?
Yeah, I forget to eat too. Even when I start getting sick to my stomach - if I'm hyperfocused on something I will ignore all other needs. I think I'm kind of doing it right now, actually. Probably time to log off :laugh:.

It is so great to know I'm not the only one in this boat! I'm excited to get to know the community here more :smile: Yeah this eating thing... I'm pretty sure I would be malnourished if my wife didn't harass me daily to eat meals.

Now for these kind of tasks, I'm not sure what is feasible to expect to train a SD to do realistically. Can a SD be trained to stop, check, and notify me no vehicles are approaching before stepping off a curb in some capacity (I'm really not too clear on the role guiding eye dogs facilitate this for the visually impaired) so that I also end up stopping, checking, and processing appropriately?

The human has to make the decision of when to cross, not the dog. The dog does not tell you that it is safe to cross. Dogs can tell you where curbs are and can help you stop at curbs, dogs cannot tell you it is safe to cross.

Yes, I need the dog to help remind me to stop and check everything is okay to proceed rather than to safely navigate me across streets on their own. Things like I'm crossing a street and need to check for traffic just don't occur to me on my own when I'm experiencing sensory overload, but if someone (or a dog) can notify me hey this is something you need to pay attention to right now, I can do that and make sure it is safe to cross.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2017, 05:00:47 PM by rnc4088 »