Service Dog Helps Student with Autism Excel in College
Although it is a relatively new area, autism service dogs are being trained and used in throughout the US. Their growth is immense, as service dog organizations are continuously promoting their benefits. To a child with autism, the world can be filled with bright lights, distractions, and uncontrollable nervous impulses. As more and more children with autism are facing these challenges, loving and specially trained service dogs, known to some as ‘miracle workers’, are providing aid and comfort. For instance, an autism service dog can accompany a child to reduce anxiety levels during school activities, dental or medical visits, travel, and more.
Autism service dogs and college
For Collin Butler, a freshman with autism at Harrisburg University, having a service dog has helped him to deal with the overwhelming stress of social challenges and peer pressure. Like a majority of young college students, Butler feels the pressure of classes and exams. Every day, he is escorted to class by Galaxy, a 2-year-old service dog that was trained by Susquehanna Service Dogs. “I tend to rock when I start to feel it. She will come over and give me a nudge, to make me aware of it,” said Butler. He explained that Galaxy even lays across his legs on command and the pressure that she applies has a therapeutic effect on him, helping to alleviate his stress.
Butler and Galaxy have been together for about a month now, after a couple weeks of training together. “Galaxy is really helpful and she is really helpful at home. But we can’t be super playful with her all the time. She is focused on him. At home, we need to have minimal contact with her,” said Michele Butler, Collin’s mother.
All that service dogs can do
Ruby Ile, the woman who trained Galaxy together with her husband Keith, said that service dogs are often trained to help individuals in wheelchairs or assist those with balance, seizure, and hearing problems. Galaxy was the first dog that the couple trained for the Pennsylvania service dog organization and they were thrilled that she was selected as one of the few dogs to become service dogs. Galaxy stayed in the Ile’s East Pennsboro Township home on a full-time basis, from December of 2015 through March of 2017. Afterward, she attended Advanced Training and was then placed with the Butlers in their home in Cumberland County. “Galaxy has been trained to interrupt behaviors that may interfere with Collin’s ability to be successful,” stated Susquehanna Service dogs.
How service dogs help with all aspects of autism
Service dogs like Galaxy not only help to alleviate the anxiety and stress that autistic individuals feel, but they are also great conversation starters. This is especially true at Harrisburg University, where other students took to Galaxy immediately. “They will pet her before class begins, but once class is underway, Galaxy sits quietly and the students focus on the lesson,” said Butler. He stressed that he is looking forward to Galaxy being a big part of his future, especially when he gets his first full-time job after college.
Read on to learn more about the benefits of a service dog for people with autism.