|Autism Assistance Dogs are not only a living miracle to the disabled child, but
also to the entire family. These special dogs are trained to assist the child, and
parents of the child, in a variety of different ways.
If your child has a tendency to dart away from you, or if you have trouble holding on to your child for
guidance, our dogs can be trained to assist in a form of guidance themselves. Little Angels Autism
Assistance Dogs can wear a special 'tether' harness that has a leash attached to the belt loop or
harness of your child. When the child tries to dart away the dog is trained to automatically lie down. Not
only does this keep the child out of danger, but over time it can also teach the child to stop darting.
Many children who struggle against having their hands held by their parents do well with following a dog
they are tethered to.
Regardless of a tether being used or not, many children find satisfaction on holding onto a special
handle attached to the dog's vest that is designed especially for them. It gives them a sense of
confidence and security to feel that they are walking their own dog. This can also keep a child focused
on the dog and keep other distractions at bay.
Many parents come to compare their autistic child to Houdini due to the fact that they are able to disarm
alarms and open locks within seconds. It seems that no matter how many precautions are taken, that
their children still find ways to wander from the house. Little Angels Autism Assistance Dogs can also be
trained to track and locate the child by scent. This is a similar task to 'Search and Rescue', only the dog
has learned to track down one specific individual. Training such as this is invaluable to keep a child from
becoming lost or injured.
Some children with autism demonstrate repetitive behaviors such as flailing their arms, hitting various
surfaces, stomping their feet, etc.. Parents often say that just a simple touch to their child's arm will
interupt these behaviors so the child is redirected. Our dogs can be trained to recognize these signs
from the child, and paw at their leg to interupt the behavior.
Children with autism have shown enormous improvement with social skills, communication, and even
facial recognition when placed with an assistance dog. Our dogs wear a special identifying vest when out
in public with their child, which labels the dog as an Autism Assistance Dog. When individuals notice the
'ask to pet me' inscribed on the vest, the child is invited to communicate about their dog. In the beginning
the descriptions are simple, such as the name of the dog, the color of the dog, etc., but over time
discussions become more complex as the child explains how the dog helps him, and what they like about
Dogs are not judgemental, and they accept us for who we are. They are a constant companion that
offers unconditional love and devotion. Above all the other ways an assistance dog can help, this is
perhaps the most beneficial of all.
Hander Training is where the parent of the autistic child learns how to work with the dog as a team. This
generally takes 7-14 days, with training every day. This is when the dog learns to respond to the
commands of the handler, and when the handler learns how to reinforce the training that the dog has
already received. We cover practical, day-to-day life experiences so you will feel confident taking the dog
into your care.
After the completion of Handler Training we work together on a series of field tests, which are
administered by the trainer. After graduation, you and your dog will be certified as a working team. In
order for your dog to be granted legal public access, the dog must be accompanied by your autistic
child, and yourself. A certification card will be provided to the handler, as well as a service vest and
aluminum identification tag for your dog, which labels him or her as a service animal.
We have a lifetime commitment to each
recipient and each dog that we place.
Once you and your dog have graduated we maintain contact to insure that your dog's training and
assistance remains in tact,
that the dog remains healthy and happy,
and that the dog is improving your quality of life.
What are the steps involved for receiving an
Autism Assistance Dog?
Step 1: Request an application through our Apply For A Dog page.
Step 2: Return the application for review.
Your application is received via email, and you will receive
a response within 10 business days.
Step 3: If accepted we will contact you to schedule a phone consultation.
The consultation is an average of 60 minutes where we discuss realistic expectations of how a service dog can assist you, and to make
sure you are a good fit for one of our dogs.
Step 4: Agreement.
If we believe one of our service dogs can assist you we will write out a customized agreement and ask you to review your final decision
with friends and family.
Step 5: Return your agreement with your $500.00 deposit, to be added to our waiting list.
The deposit is your sign to us that you are committed to the program. Once this is received we begin fundraising for the costs
associated with your dog. Some recipients also choose to be added to our website under the 'Donations' page - this is a personal
decision and is not a requirement.
Step 6: Fundraising.
Organizations nationwide spend an average of $30,000.00-$40,000.00 on each assistance dog trained. The average service dog
graduates with over 600 hours of training, and with that expense also comes veterinary care, boarding, grooming and training supplies.
Because of the commitment of all our wonderful volunteers Little Angels spends a fraction of that, at $24,000.00 per dog. This is an
expense covered through fundraising. If possible, we ask each recipient to be involved in the fundraising process when they can, but it
is never a requirement.
Step 7: Dog Selection and Specialized Training
Once the funds are met, regardless of how the funds were raised, we move you to the second part of our waiting list where you are a
priority for dog placement. This is when we choose a dog from our training program that has the natural propensities to assist in the
ways needed for your disability, and we continue any additional specialized training needed specifically for your needs.
Step 8: Handler Training.
During handler training we work with you, one-on-one, and show you how to reinforce the training your dog has already had. Once you
and your dog graduate our program we stay in daily contact for the first month, followed by monthly, and bi-yearly consultations for
reports on your dog's ability to continuously provide assistance to you and your child. Handler training takes place in San Diego,