I would be more than happy to answer your questions. I have 30+ years in the dog industry ( working for a vet., grooming, training, and showing) with 5 years on autism, and still learning on both. My daughter and I have 2 owner-trained service dogs for daughter/granddaughter, almost 9 with autism. I dog, an Australian Shepherd, got at 18 months, now almost 8yo, (getting ready to retire), then 2nd dog and Rott/Lab mix, got at 8 weeks, is 5 years old, but just recently developed severe back problems, so we are now looking to start a new puppy. I don't have all the answers, but have plenty of resources. There are many fine org. and a few not so fine org. that supply trained service dogs for children with autism. ADA states that any animal may be trained as a service animal ( not just dogs). It also states that a dog my be any breed or mix, or any size. But I must add that there are some breeds that do not make good service dogs (there is always an exception to this rule) due to what they were originally breed to do, and what you want the dog to specifically for the child. Example: scent hunting breeds - beagles, most terriers, and others - they hunt by scent, meaning their nose is always to the ground and if they get a scent of something they are gone, same with sight hunting breeds. Now if you want a dog to stop your child from bolting away from you, a toy or miniature poodle, pug, sheltie etc, wont be able to do this due to the small size of the breed.
There has been several studies done in the last 5 years or so regarding animals in therapy and service dogs with children with autism. They are very promising. But please understand - a service animal will not or can cure autism, but it definitely helps in day to day living. I hope this help a little, you were not specific as to your questions, please don't hesitate to post or pm any questions. There is alot involved with training, having, using, and legal, regarding a service dog an its use thereof. Thank you for asking.The following is a PM I sent to someone regarding their service animal questions so kinda taylor it your own situation:
It's difficult to give specific advise without knowing your child so I'll be general. Since he's Aspie, I'm assuming he's a little more high functioning that our daughter but regardless, the principles are the same.
Many orgs consider a service animal to be a "mobility" tool. Don't let them convince you of this. They'll say that therapy dogs are not service dogs, which is true for most disabilities but not PDDs.
If you child has problems transitioning to different or new environments then WITHOUT QUESTION one of the "services" your dog will provide is emotional stability and consistency.
They may try to talk you into passing an ADI exam. This is a private company that has been setting the standard for public assessibility training in service animals. IT IS NOT REQUIRED BY ADA LAW. But I suggest you get the certification anyway.
Once you get the certification you ARE NOT REQUIRED to EVER present it as proof that your animal is a service animal.
The only question you can legally be asked about your service animal is "what service does the animal provide." And your answer has ABSOLUTELY NO BEARING on your child's ADA rights or public accessabiltiy. You CANNOT be ask about the disability, whenther the dog is neccessary, or ANYTHING else.
AND you CANNOT be denied access for given grief over the animal for any reason.
I would highly suggest you visit www.ada.gov and even give them a call. Learn as much as you can about service animal law because the hardest part of having a service animal is dealing with the public (but its not usually difficult, haha).
Now as far as your animal's training... if you child tends to run off while out in public, maybe tether training is in order (attaching your child to your dog). This is an important safety thing for our daughter. Also, maybe search and resuce training if your child is a wonderer. All dogs can be trained to do this, but some are more qualified than others.
If your child seeks pressure when upset y ou can train your animal to push your child against a wall as it leans against them or lay on their midsection while they're on the floor.
If your child is a boy and in his teens you could probably train the dog to help him pick up girls... but I wouldn't suggest it, lol.
Really, you just need to pick out your childs roughest areas and work with the trainer to accomadate those things. A good trainer should have no problem customizing the training this way.
If the trainer is just pushing ADI accessibility then find a new trainer or train the animal yourself.
And make sure you have a solid contract with the trainer. Most trainers for ASD know little about ASD and even less about working with your child. So be strong and don't them push you and treat your child like the dog they are training.
Also, the trainer should be working with your child and dog togther as often as possible.
If you have more specific questions let me know.
Another mom here went through http://www.4pawsforability.org/ and I think she has had great success with it. You can check it out - it is an option to those that cannot buy one, it takes time but its worth it.
I myself have to wait till I move to get one. But once I move, I'll be getting a dog for Fabian (I don't think I can handle one for each)