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Meet the dogs bringing happiness to autistic children

Nicole keenihan appears distracted as she hurries along the supermarket aisles.Quickly grabbing daily necessities from the crowded shelves, she doesn even look twice to make sure she has the right brand of cereal in her hand.

No sooner than her groceries are swept off the shelves, they flying across the scanner, into bags and into the car.She always eager to return to the familiar and controlled home environment, but it not shopping that makes nicki frantic, it her autistic son riley.

Really difficult to do too much at all, nicki says.To make sure she gets through the shopping without sixyearold riley running away or breaking down into an inconsolable emotional mess, nicki straps riley so tight in his pusher that it resembles a straitjacket.

Riley, like many of the one in 500 people who has severe autism, can talk to his family and, most of the time, doesn understand what they saying to him.He is easily startled by sudden movements, loud noises or flashing lights.

Has no awareness that he has to stay with us that we his parents and protectors, nicki says.An open space he just take off we be calling him until we were blue in the face.I worked my life around doing the groceries.Riley was diagnosed at 2 years old, nicki and her husband alan began searching for a solution and some relief.They never expected they would find it in the shape of a cute, cuddly labrador puppy called blake.But after reading about autism assistance dogs(Aad)A pilot program run by guide dogs sa/nt that specially trains dogs to respond to the most common behaviours of children with the disability they were eager to join.

Though the program is in the early stages, there been a huge amount of interest from families, says guide dogs sa/nt general manager kate thiele.Really want to be a part of it, so we expanding our breeding and training program to meet these needs.With guide dogs for the visionimpaired, aad labrador puppies are bred through specialist programs in south australia and interstate and, at eight weeks of age, are placed with puppyraising volunteer families.

The families socialise the pups until it they are 14 months old by taking them to shopping centres, restaurants and on public transport.When they reach 14 months old, trainers assess the dogs <a href="http://www.beatbydrdresaleca.com" title="beatbydrdresaleca">beatbydrdresaleca</a> based on how they respond to other dogs, how fast they walk, their anxiety levels and excitability.A decision is then made on whether the dog should go into training and for which program.

Guide dogs and autism assistance dogs both begin with basic training:How to walk in a straight line;How to stop at kerbs and how to turn left or right.Then the training becomes more specialised.

The most public duty performed by an autism assistance dog is to act as an anchor when an autistic child is anxious and threatens to run away.Riley is attached to blake by a tether secured to a belt around his waist.Nicki or alan then control blake with a lead, which is part of the dog jacket the same as is used by any other guide dog.

Riley is able to roam freely, but if he tries to bolt, blake resists by sitting or lying down and waits for further instruction from a parent.

It gives nicki or alan time <a href="http://www.beatbydrdresaleca.com" title="cheap beats by dre headphones">cheap beats by dre headphones</a> to intervene and calm their distressed son.

At home, even the sound of a lawnmower starting can frighten riley enough for him to bolt sometimes straight toward the front door.When this happens, blake is trained to rush to block the nearest doorway, buying nicki a few extra seconds to diffuse the situation.Nicki says those precious seconds can make all the difference in a parent life.

So much frustration on riley behalf because he can express what he feeling, says nicki.This frustration can result in big meltdowns, such as hour worth of kicking and tears says blake can sense this rising tension and helps calm riley by nuzzling his face or resting his head in riley lap.The simple act of having a dog to pat often calms an autistic child, preventing them from becoming emotional, frustrated even violent.Before blake arrived, alan would sometimes have to restrain riley during an emotional outburst while nicki comforted riley eightyearold brother jordan, protecting him in his bedroom until the episode passed.

Nicki and alan underwent an intensive appraisal before receiving blake, including several interviews and a meeting between blake trainer and riley.They participated in a demanding weeklong orientation course at guide dogs to understand and learn about blake, to ensure he would become an effective tool in helping the couple manage riley condition.

Often called an disability autism can make life a struggle for an entire family, says guide dog services manager tracey jones.She points out that people often don recognised that a child has severe autism.Think, that child is behaving badly, the parenting skills are very poor jones says.

As soon as there a dog with a coat with a handle and belt, people realise that here is a child who needs support and this dog is providing assistance to the whole family.It takes an invisible disability and makes it visible.Has certainly changed things, that for sure, says nicki.Riley is now calmer and tries to run away far less.When blake is by his side, riley is on his best behaviour.The simple task of going to the park, which was previously a source of anxiety and stress, is now enjoyable and they have been able to take walks near the family shack at clayton bay, which includes passing near cliffs, for the first time.

Blake has also brought the two brothers closer.So beautiful.Now, they have nice days out in the backyard together.Riley will often go out and lie with blake riley is very sensory and loves the dog fur, nicki says.Will go and play with them too, which is great.Blake is very gentle when they all playing in the backyard.Of all, blake has given nicki and alan peace of mind a luxury they never dared to dream about.So comfortable with blake around, says nicki.Trust him.

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