02/25/2016 03:18 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

But, What Can a Dog Do For Someone With Autism?


I don't mind repeating myself because this is a very important message. I've talked about it here and here and here but it keeps coming up again and again so I thought I might address it, at least, one more time.

Autism is an extremely complex disorder. It impairs communication and social interaction while causing restricted and repetitive behaviours. However, this definition tells you very little of what you need to know. It is, simply put, just a string of words. For them to be meaningful in anyway, you'll have to explore a little further. I try to help you do that with this blog, but spending time with people on the autism spectrum is an even better way to gain a clearer understand of autism.

Today, I am less interested in explaining the intricacies of autism than I am explaining how 90lbs of labrador can help a little girl maneuver a world that isn't ready for her. I would like to explain this in the simplest terms, so that this message might be passed on as regularly as possible.

National Service Dog, Oakley, is Kate's constant companion. He travels everywhere with her and here are the reasons why:


She is tethered to Oakley because she has a tendency to wander. Wandering is common among individuals with autism. We can take Kate out in public anywhere, without the fear of her wandering off, or worse, bolting from us if she should see fit. He is focused on his job at all times when he is wearing his vest, so don't forget to completely ignore him so he can concentrate on his very important work.



He provides deep pressure as she seeks it. Kate is a sensory-seeker and needs lots of pressure on her joints for the purpose of self-regulation.


Oakley gives Kate a safe place to go when she needs it. He doesn't ask questions or make demands of her. You can imagine how foreign much of the world must seem to little miss Kate. Having a friend like Oakley can be crucial to her mental health.



And finally, the service that Oakley provides that has become especially important to us as of late:


Oakley encourages other children to take an interest in Kate. Often times, her deficits in social interaction can make it difficult for her to make friends. Oakley is able to help Kate suppress behavioural issues and her peers are more apt to accept her into their play.