At Certapet, we are a dedicated team focused on one thing: Getting those in need the help they deserve as quickly as possible. Whether from a psychiatric service dog or an emotional support animal, our easy and painless 3 step process will direct you down the path to regaining the power to live a life free from stress and worry.
The purpose of this article is to inform and educate people about service dogs, the differences between a therapy dog, another term for a psychiatric service dog, and a support dog or emotional support animal.
We relay how autism service dogs, also known as an autism assistance dog, can help all people, especially children, who have Aspergers or another Autism Spectrum disorder, or other physical and mental illnesses, how they are specifically trained, and what you can do to acquire one for yourself.
What is Aspergers?
Asperger’s syndrome, also called Asperger’s disorder, is a type of pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). PDDs are a group of conditions that involve delays in the development of many basic skills, most notably the ability to socialize with others, to communicate, and to use imagination. There is a spectrum within the PDD disorders.
Many individuals with Asperger’s exhibit serious deficiencies in social and communication skills. Their IQs are typically in the normal to very superior range. They are usually educated in the mainstream, but many require special education services.
They desire to fit in socially and have friends, but have a great deal of difficulty making effective social connections and are frequently a target for bullying and teasing. Many of them are at risk for developing mood disorders, such as anxiety or depression, especially in adolescence. The Different Brains site contains many great resources.
Common Treatments and Coping Mechanisms for Aspergers/Autism
Currently, the traditional medical field offers several services for your adult or child with Aspergers or another autism spectrum disorder. They include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy can help address anxiety and other personal challenges.
- Social skills training classes can help with conversational skills and understanding social cues.
- Speech therapy can help with voice control.
- Physical and occupational therapy can improve coordination.
- Psychoactive medicines can help manage associated anxiety, depression and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Autism Speaks’ website has more information here.
As more and more people seek holistic alternatives for their adult or child with autism, when developing their treatment plans, the use of assistance animals such as autism assistance dogs is becoming more commonplace.
To evolve with these times, CertaPet has made the process for this revolutionary service completely digital, not to mention easy to navigate. We provide a free, confidential screening test which takes less than 5 minutes to determine your candidacy. From there, you will be matched with a licensed mental health professional in your state and contacted to set up your telehealth appointment. The final step is our therapist’s recommendation, which includes a treatment plan with your particular service dog, and an official ESA letter if you qualify.
What are Psychiatric Service Dogs?
A psychiatric service dog (PSD) is a type of assistance animal that’s trained to perform specific tasks for individuals living with a mental illness. These unique tasks are directly related to the handler’s disability.
Most of us are accustomed to seeing guide dogs supporting those with physical disabilities like hearing or sight impairment. However, a psychiatric service dog helps people with typically unseen, unnoticeable disabilities.
For example, veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who experience panic attacks or similar challenges can greatly benefit from the service of a PSD. Those who live with social phobia or other anxiety disorders can also find the service of a PSD to be incredibly beneficial.
CertaPet’s Blog page is fully stocked with informative articles, testimonials, and data from mental health professionals. For a more in-depth overview of this complicated subject, read our full article.
How Can Autism Service Dogs Help with Aspergers?
Autism service dogs, like any others, are trained to perform specific tasks to help their human companions navigate the world. Autism Spectrum Disorders are characterized by impairments in communication skills and social interaction, as well as by the presence of challenging behaviors, and autism service dogs can be life-changing partners, helping people with autism gain confidence and independence.
Mental Health Benefits
One task unique to autism service dogs is noticing and responding to changes in a person’s sensory levels. Autism impacts the sensory system, and many people with autism become stressed out by uncomfortable sensations. Autism service dogs can be trained to intervene when their handler becomes over-stimulated, helping to alleviate stress and maintain safety.
Physical Health Benefits
According to service dog organization Paws for a Cause, these dogs help to “improve social interactions and relationships, expand verbal and nonverbal communication, teach life skills, increase interest in activities and decrease stress within the family.”
Specific Tasks Autism Service Dogs Can Perform to Support Their Owner
These tasks include:
- Helping their person get ready for school in the morning;
- Picking up dropped objects;
- Alerting passers-by to an emergency situation;
- Simply act as a calming presence in their person’s life.
- Provide comfort and security
- Decrease stress and increase activity
Rover.com has a lot more to say here.
Emotional Support Dog vs. Psychiatric Service Dog: What’s the Difference?
PSDs and ESAs are both a type of assistance animal that a licensed mental health professional or doctor can prescribe to someone as part of their treatment plan.
However, only PSDs are recognized as official ‘service animals’ under the Americans with Disabilities Act. As legally recognized service animals, they’re entitled to the following rights:
- Public Access Rights (under the Americans with Disabilities Act they can accompany their owner into grocery stores, restaurants, etc.)
- Travel Rights (under the Air Carrier Access Act, they can accompany their owner in the airline cabin and the owner does not have to pay a pet fee)
- Fair Housing (under the Fair Housing Act, they can live in housing units even if there’s a no pets policy)
- Educational Facility Access (under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, they can accompany their owner into schools, colleges, universities, etc.)
ESAs on the other hand, do not have the same privileges when it comes to public access and travel, due to new DOT regulations put into place on January 11, 2021. Many major airlines now only recognize ESAs as pets, which means owners will have to pay a pet fee. (More information on these regulations and the airlines that have changed the policies here: https://www.certapet.com/new-dot-regulations-for-emotional-support-animals/ ). However, people can still enjoy fair housing rights with their ESAs, even if they live in a no pets unit.
The reason for this difference is that PSDs have to be specially trained to perform a certain task or type of work that helps support a person living with a disability (ESAs on the other hand receive no special training – they’re just meant to offer comfort through their companionship).
To be considered a service dog, a PSD must be trained to perform a specific task (examples here: https://www.certapet.com/how-to-train-a-psychiatric-service-dog/ ), which is why partnering with a professional trainer is the best option.
We’re currently onboarding our professional dog trainers and will be offering this option very soon. In the meantime, those interested in getting a psychiatric service dog can begin the process by seeing if they qualify for a PSD through our free screening here: https://www.certapet.com/psychiatric-service-dog-screening/
How to Get a Service Dog for Aspergers
In order to obtain an autism service dog, or therapy dog, you must receive a recommendation from a licensed mental health professional or a doctor. This ‘prescription’ takes the form of a letter, which will be written on your health professional’s letterhead and include their license number.
There are no limitations to the breed of dog you can use as your psychiatric service dog or therapy dog. Autism Assistance dogs can therefore either be chosen from a dog you already own, a dog you adopt from a shelter or rescue group, or a dog you receive from a service dog organization. Keep in mind, however, that the dog must be specially trained to perform certain tasks in order to be recognized as a service dog under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
CertaPet wants you to get a service animal as quickly as possible. And we know our services can do just that through our certified telemedicine evaluation and rapidly submitted recommendation letters. If you have additional questions, read these Healthline and Top Dog Tips articles.
How to Train a Service Dog for Aspergers
In the sections above, we touched on the different training methods of an emotional support assistance dog. Here are some more details, along with a supporting blog post, regarding the typical training of support, therapy, or service dogs.
There are two components of an effective training regimen for all service dogs. First, the General Public Access Test is performed to instill good manners in service animals, ensuring that they behave appropriately in public settings. The second step, the specialized task/work training is done, which satisfies the requirement of all PSDs to be able to perform a specific action that’s directly related to their handler’s disability.
The Best Service Dog Breeds for Aspergers
Any breed of dog could be transformed into a mobility service dog or psychiatric service animal. It could be a dog you have owned for years or one you just picked up from a shelter or adoption agency. But, like with most things, there are a handful of dog breeds that are superiorly adept than the rest.
An article from AngelSense contains their list:
- Golden Retriever
- Saint Bernard
- German Shepherd
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Are you interested in getting a psychiatric service dog?
Here at CertaPet, we can help. CertaPet is an online telehealth platform that improves access to mental health care in the U.S. with a focus on providing services to individuals who are seeking animal assisted interventions as part of their treatment plan.
We are currently coordinating with emotional support dog trainers who specialize in the service animal space and who will soon work in tandem with our network of licensed mental health professionals to make the process of getting and training a psychiatric service dog affordable, convenient, and hassle-free.
We’ll have more information available soon about our Psychiatric Service Dog Training options. In the meantime, you can take our FREE pre-screening below to see if you qualify for a PSD!
Can you have a service animal for Aspergers?
Absolutely, yes. Service dogs, therapy dogs, and emotional support animals are trained to assist in the activities of daily living for those who have one or more physical and/or mental health conditions, including Aspergers or an autism spectrum disorder.
How do you qualify for a psychiatric service dog?
We have a fast, easy, and stress free way to determine just that. We start with a free screening, move on to a telemedicine evaluation from a licensed professional, and finish with a personalized plan and ESA letter of qualification.
What can a psychiatric service dog do?
Under the ADA, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.
Can I use any breed of dog as an emotional support animal or psychiatric service animal?
Any breed of dog can take to the psychiatric service training well and you can even use one you already own. However, there are particular breeds that excel in these kinds of emotional, stressful, and difficult situations.
How are support dogs trained?
Service dogs can be trained by you, the handler, or by you with the assistance of a certified trainer. A third option is to adopt a service animal from an accredited training organization for service dogs.