Friday, October 7, 2011

Dogs for autistic kids

My mom is going to school now. It seems if you are over 60 you can go to school for free here. How exciting for her. Shes taking English and PortugueseII and another class. I forget which one really but there is a third. She also works at sears and is a LMT. pretty cool to have a mom that can come and give you a massage when you need it , don't you think? Anyway ,I digress. She wrote a paper on dogs and autistic kids. It got me thinking.
my mom and Sammy

It seems for some autistic kids there is a huge imbalance in cortisol (stress hormone) and circadian rhythms (sleep/wake cycles). Sammy seems to be one of those kids. He has a hard time both sleeping and waking , resting and regulating.  He becomes anxious easily and stresses over things beyond my comprehension.  Kids like Sammy struggle with a higher level of cortisol and have difficult with day to day regulation.

"Cortisol rhythm is extremely out of sync in children with ASD, due to imbalanced melatonin and ACTH production. The more severe the autism, the more abnormal the diurnal rhythms.9 The need for cortisol is so great however, that cortisol suppression is resistant to dexamethasone-suppression testing.10 While there is a huge cortisol dysregulation, DHEA-S and testosterone seem to be similar in children with autism and those without.11" read the full article here

There is evidence suggesting that animals, like dogs, lower cortisol in children like Sammy. It can help them adjust to new environments and new people. The mornings are the hardest part of our day and it seems some ASD kids have a spike in cortisol about 30 minutes after waking in the morning. 

In the two weeks before the dogs were brought in, the children's cortisol levels rose 58 percent during the first 30 minutes they were awake in the morning. But when the dogs were present, this awakening response was reduced to just a 10 percent rise. And when the dogs were taken away after four weeks, the cortisol awakening response jumped back up to a 48 percent increase. read the full article here

So maybe a dog would help him. I don't know that I interested in an actual service dog but maybe more a companion dog. There are tons of articles supporting companion dogs for kids like Sammy. He melts around dogs and babies. The barking doesn't seem to bother him and maybe I could teach the dog to wake him in the morning rather than me. I don't know whats best for Sammy yet.  I know an older dog would be best for us and it has to be a bigger breed dog to not get lost in the shuffle. Of course there is cost, vet bills,upkeep and grooming. Does the cost negate the benefit? How do I make this decision

I just want to make things easier for him. I hate seeing him struggle in the mornings and cry about everything. Maybe if his stress levels were lower he would be able to get dressed and enjoy time in the morning without all the tears. Like everything else it is simply about making t better for Sammy and the rest of us. His autism affects all of us in this house. 

What do you think , would you consider a dog to help your child? whats the down side? Is there anything I am forgetting?


  1. Ella marciposafm@yahoo.comOctober 14, 2011 at 1:15 PM

    The right dog would probably be fantastic for your family. They have been shown to be so useful for so many different parts of life.

    I second the suggestion posted on Xanga of looking into getting a dog trained to be a service dog, but who didn't make the cut. Generally, they don't make the cut for simple reasons that would never bother you or me. They won't jump into a car readily on command, or really loud noises scare them, or they won't go to the bathroom on command (seriously). My brother had a service dog who almost didn't make the cut because she was too energetic for the program, yet she was still the most even tempered, calm dog I've ever met. If this is an option you want to explore, my brother got his dog from CCI (Canine Companions for Independence). It looks like you have to contact them directly to ask about their dogs, so the link to their contact info is Or this is another site for service dog information

    Keep in mind different breeds of dog (and individual dogs) will generally require more or less exercise, and will be more or less tolerant of little kids. And an unexercised dog who needs exercise will quickly become unmanageable. Also, as a parent, count on having to provide that exercise yourself.

    If you don't go with a service dog, I'd suggest going to a pound and letting them what kind of dog would fit your family. It may take a few tries before you find an appropriate dog. Try to let your children interact with the dog before you commit.

    Please don't get a puppy without a lot of research. It's really hard to tell what their temperament will become, and your family probably needs a calm, easygoing dog. Besides, puppies are incredible amounts of work.

    Yikes, I wrote a lot. I hope some of it helps. I really do think the right dog would be helpful to you and your children.

  2. Ella marciposafm@yahoo.comOctober 14, 2011 at 1:21 PM

    Huh. The links didn't come through in what I see of my post. The home page for both sites is and You can look through them to find the links for the contact information... you want the "member program lists and links" link for

  3. thank you so much for all of this amazing information. We will not get a puppy here. I don't think that would be helpful for Sammy. In fact I think a puppy would be really bad. I used to think the other way around. We have found that NONE of the shelters near us will allow us to get a dog with a baby in the house so I am not sure where to go from here. I will check out all of the wonderful information you have given me. I truly appreciate it

  4. Hey Annie, it's Janey. I love your blog. I'm glad you told me about it! I don't know if Steve or I told you, but I have two small dogs. Mischa, my Shi Tzu and Oliver, my Bichon. Both are cute and loveable and would probably get along well with the kids, but Mischa is kind of weary around small children...(she seems nervous around neighborhood kids) Oliver would probably love to visit you sometime! If you think it might help Sam- even if it's just once in a while- just let me know. Oliver is very very affectionate! Hope you are well. Talk to you soon.


I love hearing from all of you.It reminds me that people really do read this thing.