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Benefits of Psychiatric Service Dogs for Autism

DogsInVests is a nonprofit organization providing psychiatric service dogs for children with autism in Wisconsin. Psychiatric service dogs provide invaluable benefits for children with autism, enhancing their daily lives and promoting their well-being. At the end of our matching process, children and their psychiatric dog evolve from strangers to training partners, to trusted companions.

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Understanding Autism

Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting communication, social interaction and behavior. It is characterized by a range of challenges, including difficulties with social skills, repetitive behaviors and a restricted range of interests and activities.

Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning there are various degrees in which an individual is affected. Specifically, children with autism are faced with the following:

  • Social Integration Challenges: Children with autism often struggle with making eye contact, interpreting facial expressions and body language and understanding social cues. Building and maintaining friendships can be challenging.
  • Communication Challenges: Many children with autism experience delays or difficulties in speech and language development. Some have trouble initiating and sustaining conversations, understanding figurative language and expressing their own thoughts and emotions.
  • Repetitive Behaviors and Restricted Interests: Children with autism often engage in repetitive behaviors, such as hand-flapping, rocking or repetitive vocalizations. Some develop intense interests in specific topics or objects and may have difficulty shifting their focus to other activities.
  • Sensory Sensitivities: Sensory sensitivities are common in children with autism. Some children are hypersensitive or hyposensitive to sensory stimuli such as lights, sounds, textures, tastes and smells. This leads to discomfort or distress in certain environments.
  • Difficulty with Transitions: Children with autism may struggle with changes in routines and transitions from one activity to another. Some become anxious or display disruptive behaviors when faced with unexpected or unfamiliar situations.
  • Executive Functioning Challenges: Executive functioning refers to a set of cognitive processes responsible for planning, organizing and self-regulation. Some children have difficulties with these skills, which impacts their ability to manage time, set goals and complete tasks independently.
  • Emotional Regulation: Children with autism often have difficulty understanding and regulating their emotions. Meltdowns or outbursts then occur when overwhelmed or frustrated.
Service Dogs for Wisconsin Children with Autism

The Role of Psychiatric Service Dogs for Those With Autism

Psychiatric service dogs play a valuable role in supporting children with autism. While autism service dogs are often categorized as a type of psychiatric service dog, they serve a distinct purpose. Their training is specifically tailored to the needs of individuals on the autism spectrum.

Benefits of Psychiatric Service Dogs for Autism


1. Improved Social Interaction and Communication

Psychiatric service dogs act as social bridges, facilitating interactions and communication between individuals with autism and others. The presence of a dog sometimes serves as a conversation starter and attracts positive attention, making it easier for the individual to initiate social interactions. This is particularly beneficial for children with autism who struggle with social engagement. The dog's presence reduces barriers and creates a more inclusive and accepting environment for social interactions.

Some dogs are trained to respond to specific commands or cues given by the individual, promoting communication skills and enhancing the ability to give and follow instructions.

2. Added Sensory Assistance and Emotional Regulation

Psychiatric service dogs assist in managing sensory overload by providing sensory support. They are trained to recognize signs of sensory distress and offer deep pressure therapy or physical contact to help regulate sensory input. The dogs create a calming influence, redirect attention and provide a buffer between the individual and overwhelming stimuli, ultimately helping to reduce sensory overload and promote a sense of calm.

Psychiatric service dogs offer unconditional love and companionship, which has a positive impact on the emotional well-being of children with autism. The presence of a dog provides a sense of comfort, security and emotional stability. This support reduces anxiety levels, promotes relaxation and creates a calming influence on the individual.

3. Improved Safety and Security

Psychiatric service dogs offer safety benefits for individuals with autism. They prevent elopement or wandering by using specialized techniques such as tethering or anchoring, ensuring the individual remains safe and secure.

In case of emergencies or if the individual manages to elope, psychiatric dogs alert others by barking, seeking help or providing a tracking scent to aid in locating the person quickly. This prompt alert system significantly reduces the risk of harm and ensures a swift response in critical situations.

4. Strengthened Confidence and Independence

Psychiatric service dogs play a vital role in promoting independence and self-reliance in individuals with autism. By assisting with various tasks and activities of daily living, psychiatric dogs empower individuals to become more self-sufficient. For example, the dogs are trained to retrieve items, open doors and provide physical support, enabling the child to accomplish more tasks on their own. The responsibility of caring for a dog, including feeding, grooming and exercising, fosters a sense of ownership and independence in individuals with autism.

Finding the Right Psychiatric Service Dog

If your child could benefit from a service dog, we urge you to contact us and fill out an application. The demand for specially trained service dogs in Wisconsin is very high. The sooner we get in contact, the sooner your child can meet their new furry companion.


We serve the communities of Milwaukee, Waukesha, Mukwonago, Madison and surrounding areas from our Palmyra headquarters.

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