NEADS Service Dogs Program for Children Ages 8 to 16
For children with autism or other developmental disabilities, the NEADS Social Dog Program can make all the difference. NEADS Service Dogs are trained in a variety of tasks that can address a range of issues facing a child with autism and his or her family. These include socialization skills, behavioral skills, life skills, and fine and gross motor skills.
NEADS selects Service Dogs for the Social Dog Program for their special chemistry with children. All NEADS Service Dogs are gentle, tolerant and well trained, but each has its own personality that can be matched with an appropriate child. Some children may benefit from a dog that seeks out attention and elicits play. Other children may require a quiet, somewhat reserved dog to make them feel more comfortable. The type of dog that best suits a child’s needs is determined during the interview process.
Because of this highly personalized matching process, we require all applicants (child and a parent or family member) to come to our NEADS campus in Princeton, MA for an in-person evaluation and in-take interview. If you are more than 3 hours from the NEADS campus, we can begin the process with a Skype interview.
Interacting with a Service Dog can help a child learn to interact with people and respond to someone else’s needs.
A Service Dog can help with…
- Conversational skills – The Service Dog becomes the focal point for socialization and can facilitate conversation in any environment the child is with the dog, from the holiday dinner to shopping at the supermarket.When a well-trained Service Dog is present, people ask predictable questions that have answers a child can memorize. People may ask things like: “What is your dog’s name?” “What is the dog’s breed?” “How old is your dog?” These questions are asked frequently and with repetition, so the child can learn rote answers, which can be a bridge to connecting with others. As the child grows more confident, conversations can take place through and about the dog.
- Eye contact– A Service Dog is trained to make eye contact. When a child is comfortable looking into a dog’s eyes, this can translate into making eye contact with people.
- Empathy & social cues – Parents can help their child learn to read body language and learn empathy for others by using the dog as a model. By learning to read the dog, the child can learn to read other people, their body language, facial expressions, and social cues.
- Communications skills – The two-leash system, where a child and parent each hold a leash, allows the parent as facilitator to teach the child to talk to the dog to give it a command.