I have been watching with great interest as a friend of ours whose adopted daughter with severe PTSD has received a service dog through 4 Paws for Ability. This organization was the first service dog training organization to place dogs as autism assistance buddies. They have extended that program to children with other developmental, mental and emotional disorders as well, including ADHD and anxiety disorders.
My friend reports great things about the interaction between her daughter and her newfound friend. He helps not only calm her daughter’s anxiety, but serves as a live sensory furry friend. These service dogs are allowed and trained to go anywhere with the child – hotels, restaurants, public transportation. Some families report it challenging to get school districts to allow the dogs into school, but once they do, they see incredibly positive benefits.
4 Paws for Ability is a bit different than other service dog organizations in that most have extremely long waiting lists (2-5 years). And most others focus on physical disabilities (visual, hearing, mobility/motor). 4 Paws for Ability also approaches their funding differently as well. Many service dog organizations have to severely limit the number of dogs they can place because of the high cost of training these dogs, several thousands of dollars. But 4 Paws has a fundraising requirement of each family and gets each family actively involved in raising funds toward the goal of placing a dog with their child. This cuts the average wait to have a dog placed in your home to about 3-9 months.
Thinking about service dogs and the benefits they can provide to children with emotional disorders and developmental delays is huge. These children have such difficulties with social situations. To have a companion, a furry caregiver, a living being who is focused on them is so beneficial both to the child, and to their overwhelmed, exhausted parents.
This makes me think about Mudflap…our new dog…and some of what I’m observing…