Service Dogs for Children with Autism act as constant companions to children with autism to help them improve social interactions and relationships, expand verbal and nonverbal communication, teach life skills, increase interest in activities and decrease stress within the family. A PAWS Dog doesn’t pass judgment, but breaks into the world of autism and becomes a crucial part of the family’s life.
“Elliot willingly goes to bed now with LEWIS, who models for Elliot how to relax. LEWIS sleeps in bed right next to Elliot and now he pets LEWIS and soothes himself back to sleep when he wakes in the middle of the night. Because of LEWIS, we are sleeping with a peace that’s eluded us for years.”
Daniel, Parent of PAWS Service Dogs for Children with Autism Client
Daniel and Dorene Taylor have two young boys – Elliot, who’s seven, and Owen, who’s nearly six. Parents, especially those with little ones, know that a sleepless night now and then is “normal.” But the Taylors’ son Elliot has autism and that makes for a very different “normal.”
Daniel explained, “Bedtime in our house was a constant struggle. We would often have to hold Elliot to help his body shut down at night. He’d wake up at the slightest noise and then Dorene or I would have to go lay down with him so he’d go back to sleep.”
The frequent restless nights easily fed into difficult mornings getting Elliot up and regular tantrums from him during the day.
Both Daniel and Dorene have worked in the Special Education field, so they were more prepared than many to accommodate Elliot’s needs. Even then, stress was inevitable. It was a chance encounter with a stranger a few months after Elliot’s diagnosis that spurred Daniel to investigate Service Dogs for Children with Autism (SDA).
His search quickly led him to PAWS. The family applied and was accepted into our SDA pilot program and they recently welcomed home LEWIS, a mixed Yellow Lab/Golden Retriever.
Almost immediately, Daniel shared, life was different. “It seems ironic to say a two-year-old Lab is bringing calm to a home, but he truly is. The relationship that’s forming between Elliot and LEWIS is remarkable to see. Elliot willingly goes to bed now with LEWIS, who models for Elliot how to relax. LEWIS knows that at the end of the day when it is dark outside and playtime and work time is done, we should be laying down to rest. LEWIS sleeps in bed right next to Elliot and now he pets LEWIS and soothes himself back to sleep when he wakes in the middle of the night. Because of LEWIS, Dorene and I are sleeping with a peace that’s eluded us for years.”
In the morning, Daniel typically takes LEWIS outside, plays with him and practices commands. The tasks may be simple, but their effect has been profound: “I’m finding that when LEWIS and I get that time together in the morning, I am a better person to my wife and sons,” Daniel said.
“In my work,” he continued, “I’ve often seen families split up from the unimaginable stress of raising kids with special needs. I know Elliot is benefiting from having LEWIS in a whole host of ways. Believe me when I say that if a dog can strengthen a family, help a husband love his wife and both of them to love their children well, then that dog has done the most important work there is. To everyone at PAWS who never gets thanked enough, here is another believer in the work you do.”
To be eligible for a PAWS Service Dog for Children with Autism, an individual must:
If the applicant does not meet PAWS’ age requirements, visit www.assistancedogsinternational.org for a list of other ADI programs that may train for younger or older children.
While Paws With A Cause has established eligibility criterion for the types of Assistance Dogs we provide, we do not discriminate against any applicant based on race, color, creed, gender, religion, marital status, age, nationality, physical or mental disability, medical condition, sexual orientation, citizenship status, military service status or any other consideration as indicated by federal, state or local laws.
PAWS Service Dogs, Seizure Response Dogs and Service Dogs for Children with Autism are primarily Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and crosses of the two breeds. PAWS Hearing Dogs may be Retrievers or small breed dogs. Occasionally, PAWS has Poodles or Poodle mixes reserved for clients in need of a hypo-allergenic dog. All dogs must pass specialized health and temperament screenings to be accepted into training.
Some of our dogs are donated by private individuals or breeders, while others come from our own strategic breeding program. PAWS makes every attempt to rescue dogs from animal shelters for training when qualified dogs are available.
Due to the highly specialized nature of Assistance Dog work, we do not consider a client's own dog for training.
We do not train dogs to predict seizures, only to respond to a seizure that is happening. PAWS does not train dogs to provide weight-bearing support while walking, but may train a dog to counter-balance for a client needing mobility assistance.
PAWS Dogs have over 40 tasks they could be trained in, including retrieving and delivering dropped items, tugging to remove items of clothing and opening doors. Service Dogs may pull a lightweight manual wheelchair or turn lights on and off. Hearing Dogs primarily alert and orient clients to common sounds. Seizure Response Dogs respond to a client’s seizure by summoning help or providing stimulation. Service Dogs for Children with Autism act as a constant companion to a child to help them improve social, communication and life skills.
We do not train Guide Dogs for people who are blind, for diabetic alert/response, to anticipate or detect medical symptoms, for the primary benefit of emotional comfort, to recognize and/or manage undesirable human behavior, to provide supervision, navigation, or safety from environmental hazards, to respond aggressively, to provide personal protection or to assist with the management of mental illness (such as PTSD, etc.) as a primary condition.
People with a physical disability, hearing impairment, seizure disorder or a child with autism who can demonstrate that an Assistance Dog will enhance their independence or their quality of life are qualified to apply. PAWS can only accept a limited number of applications per year from individuals who live in areas serviced by a PAWS Field Representative. Although many individuals with disabilities are eligible and in need of an Assistance Dog, PAWS will determine and select individuals where the tasks provided by PAWS’ highly trained dogs will be of the greatest benefit.
Individuals applying for a Service or Seizure Response Dog must be at least 14 years old with age appropriate cognitive ability. Those applying for a Hearing Dog must be 18 years or older. Families applying for a Service Dog for Children with Autism must have a child with autism between 4-12 years old: application must be received by 7th birthday; Needs Assessment completed by 9th birthday; placement prior to 12th birthday.
The dog is provided at no cost to the client. However, PAWS needs to raise $30,000 to cover the cost of breeding, care, customized training and continued support of each team. The significant majority of funds raised by PAWS come from individual donors. PAWS also receives support from businesses, foundations and community groups (eg: AMVETS and AMVETS Auxiliaries, Lions and Lionesses, Order of the Eastern Star).
PAWS promotes a “pay it forward” culture. Once a client achieves certification, we encourage them to consider hosting a Personal Campaign to benefit another client still waiting for a PAWS Dog. We are happy to work with certified clients willing to fundraise on PAWS’ behalf, and have the tools to make it easy.
Accepted clients in the waiting pool for a PAWS Dog who wish to host a Personal Campaign for PAWS may do so. However, it is not a requirement to receive a PAWS Dog, nor will it help a waiting client get a dog more quickly.
For more information on giving to PAWS, click here.
From the time an application is received to the completion of the in-home Needs Assessment can be as long as 24 months. If a client is accepted into the program after the Needs Assessment, they will go into the pool of all clients waiting to be paired with a PAWS Dog. For all clients in the “waiting pool”, the search to find an appropriate dog begins right away. However, depending on the individual needs of the client, and the individual qualities of the dogs in training available, it may take another 1-4 years to find the right match.
Finding the right dog to match your specific needs, personality and environment is not an exact science. Many factors are taken into consideration, with the ultimate goal being to find the best dog to meet your unique needs. Also, not every dog successfully completes training; sometimes we must start the matching process over.
PAWS does place an Assistance Dog in homes that have cats, birds or other small caged pets. Effective September 1, 2012, no PAWS Assistance Dog will be placed in a home with any other dog, unless it is a retired PAWS Dog or working Assistance Dog from an Assistance Dogs International or International Guide Dog Federation-accredited agency for someone else in the household. It has been our experience that other dogs in the home can interfere with the bonding and training process of the Assistance Dog Team.
Typically, dogs are approximately 18-24 months old.
Clients must be able to follow through with the in-home and public (if applicable) training process with their local PAWS Field Representative. Clients must be committed to maintaining the dog’s training throughout the lifetime of the team and to providing for the well-being of the dog (veterinary care, proper grooming, exercise, etc.). It is advisable to research yearly veterinary, grooming and feeding costs in your specific area prior to applying for an Assistance Dog. Paws With A Cause provides ongoing training support for its teams.
Yes. The Americans with Disabilities Act guarantees the right of a person with a qualifying disability to be accompanied by their individually trained Assistance Animal in public venues. The Fair Housing Act allows for trained Assistance Animals in apartments or other no-pet housing at no additional cost to the person with a disability. More information can be found at www.ada.gov and www.usdoj.gov/crt/housing/title8.php