Autism Assistance Dogs


What are the benefits?

Autism assistance dogs act as constant companions to their person with autism, help them improve social interactions and relationships, expand verbal and nonverbal communication, teach life skills, increase interest in activities, reduce sensory-related episodes and can decrease stress within the family. An autism Lifeline doesn’t pass judgement, but breaks into the world of autism, becomes a crucial part of the family’s life, and can serve as a link between that quiet, internal world and the external world the family occupies.

Autism service dogs have proven to be an asset for many who are on the spectrum. These dogs provide a social “bridge” for children who are often excluded by others because of their behavior or lack of social interaction.

For parents of autistic children or for autistic adults, there can be many advantages to partnering with an autism assistance dog. Just a few of the many benefits include:

  • Increased social interaction – task-trained assistance dogs have been proven to improve social skills and social interaction for many children (and teens/adults) affected by autism. These dogs are naturally interesting, which often draws the attention of the autistic person as well as others.
  • Redirection of repetitive behaviors – service dogs can be taught to nudge an individual that is performing repetitive behaviors. This touch is often all that is required to redirect the person with autism from these behaviors.
  • Improved independence – autism service dogs can provide independence by allowing the child to walk with the dog as opposed to constantly holding the hand of a parent or adult. These highly skilled dogs can assist the child while under the direction of the adult.
  • Increased vocabulary – children with autism are often noticed to have an increase in vocabulary after being paired with an assistance dog. The children seem to be more comfortable in speaking with the dog which transfers to more verbal interaction with people.
  • Improved quality of sleep – Through simply being there and through trained task work like deep pressure stimulation, assistance dogs provide a certain level of comfort that can often improve an autistic individual’s ability to sleep more throughout the night.
  • Overall calmer environment – when performing everyday tasks, children feel less pressure working with a dog as opposed to their peers. The tactile experience of having a dog as a companion has also been proven to provide calming effects. Autistic children who work with dogs have been documented to feel less anger and experience fewer acts of aggression compared to the time before receiving an autism service dog.
  • Reducing runner/bolting behaviors – a properly trained autism dog is invaluable in preventing or significantly reducing runner/bolting behaviors.
  • Recovery of lost children quickly – these autism service dogs can be taught to track the child in the event that they bolt or become missing. These dogs are capable of locating the child in a variety of environments and terrain. This ability to locate the child quickly, greatly reduces the risk of serious harm.


What can an Autism Lifeline do for my child?

Autism service dogs can be trained to help in a variety of ways. Some Autism Service Dog tasks can include, but are not limited to:

  • Tethering: Bolting is one way of an individual with autism dealing with a sensory overloading environment. If they become overwhelmed, bolting or “running” can happen without warning. This is where a well-trained autism assistance dog and some specialized service dog equipment comes in handy. Part of an autism service dog’s gear includes a two-tether leash and a harness for his person. This creates a way the dog can physically stabilize his human partner with ease.  The dog simply lies on ground, acting as an anchor, which keeps the child from running away or bolting. When combined with other tasks and coping skills, tethering is an extremely valuable addition for many families.
  • Deep Pressure: Deep pressure stimulation is utilized by the service dog to stop or disrupt bolting, self-harming, anxiety meltdowns and stimming (engaging in repetitive motions or creating repetitive sounds). Think of it this way: tethering is for physically stabilizing, deep pressure is for emotionally doing so. Much like a weighted blanket or vest, the weight, warmth and pressure of an autism dog in a crucial moment can minimize or assist with meltdowns or other issues. When autism service dogs see any of these behaviors, they are trained to apply a sturdy pressure with their paw or body. This creates a calming effect. Oftentimes, the result is a child back in control of him/herself. As a service dog becomes accustomed to working with their new family, they begin to realize on their own when deep pressure should be applied to prevent overstimulation. The result is often that deep pressure takes the place of tethering as deep pressure is used a preventive to bolting.
  • Scent tracking: Many autism assistance dogs are taught to assist in locating a child by tracking the child’s scent. This is similar to Search and Rescue training, but is done with only your child’s scent. Scent tracking is used as an emergency resort to help locate a child that has bolted.
  • Peace of mind: There is one last benefit service dogs can provide their families, you won’t find it written about by ADA, it’s not a skill or task, it is simply ease of mind for the parent or guardian. Service dogs provide a constant support base helping children with autism and their families face the world with a little more courage and independence.


Who qualifies?

Lifeline Assistance Dogs is proud to work with children, adolescents and adults across the country who are on the autism spectrum.

We do not have a minimum or maximum age requirement. Many of our Autism teams are placed as "triad" teams. With a triad team, a parent or guardian is the dog's primary handler, not the person with Autism. 

All applicants must be involved in therapy, and be able to provide letters of support from treating therapist(s) (physical, occupational, recreational, speech, etc)

The average cost of an Autism Lifeline can vary depending on multiple factors, not limited to level of customization, travel needs, and task list. Each Lifeline is custom trained to each individual's specific set of needs. The average cost of an Autism Lifeline is $15,000. Payment options, including monthly payments are available.