Not all people with autism or an autism spectrum disorder are necessarily disabled by their condition. Some are able to function while others find that their condition substantially limits that person’s ability to perform activities of daily living that most others take for granted.
There is a mistaken belief that people with Autism have issues feeling emotions. Autism was once considered a type of mental illness, but it is now recognized as a sensory processing disorder. People with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) may experience difficulty recognizing and processing subtle social cues in facial expression, body language, inflection, and intonation which results in confusion in learning how to recognize and exhibit expressions of emotions, but not the feelings of those emotions.
Service dogs can be trained for some people with Autism to help them gain independence, confidence, and the ability to perform activities of daily living that they could not otherwise perform.
Since 2013, Kingston 4 Paws Service Dogs (K4PSD) has been training Labrador Retrievers and Standard Poodles to assist people and families living with autism. K4PSD is the first school located in the Southeastern Ontario region to provide this service to people who have autism.
Increase Safety Levels: When people with autism are children they often have a high tendency to bolt and have no concept of danger. Our dogs are tethered to the child, and often the parent, and trained to take commands from the parent. When the child goes to run, the dogs are given a “halt” command, anchoring the child from going any further than the tether allows.
Improve Socialization: Having the safety and security of a autism service dog allows people and their families to get out of the house and participate in new experiences on a more regular basis. When individuals see a person with their service dog, it often sparks interest and questions that engage the person and encourages them to talk about their dog.
Suppress Behavioural Outbursts: People with autism have a difficult time transitioning to new environments and often experience sensory overload. Their dog remains a constant in their life and allows them to focus on their dog as opposed to their environment which often assists with suppressing behavioural issues. The dog also acts as a tactile distraction to redirect the person to a more positive behaviour.
K4PSD’s Trained Service Dogs are valued at $20,000 to $25,000. We expect them to have an eight to ten year working life. However, each dog is provided free of charge to approved people and families.
K4PSD receives no government funding and relies entirely on donations from the general public, corporate sponsors, fundraising events, and community supporters.
Our clients are expected to assist in our fundraising efforts. Their targets are at least $20,000, however the amount raised is not tied to when they will receive their service dog. Many of them participate by asking for donations from friends and family, by organizing their own fundraisers and also by helping promote many K4PSD organized community fundraisers. Individuals or families who do not show significant effort may risk losing their acceptance status.
The actual direct cost of the trained service dog to the family is an application fee of $75, an equipment fee of approximately $100 at placement, and the cost of travel to training sessions in the Kingston area. All food and veterinary costs are borne by the person or family once the dog has been placed.
K4PSD has been steadily increasing the number of puppies in the program to keep up with demand. Our target it to continuously have 15-20 dogs in training across all of our programs. Currently, our wait time to be matched with an Autism dog is about 18 to 24 months from the time of approval.
The timing of a trained service dog placement is determined by chronological position on the waiting list and the availability of the right dog for the person’s needs and situation, and is in no way tied to fundraising efforts.
To help ensure the success of each Team, K4PSD has designed an intensive application process to assist with the placement and matching of each dog. Each applicant is screened to ensure they meet our application criteria (lives within Ontario, has an official autism or other ASD diagnosis and will be more than four years of age at the expected date of placement). An application must be completed on-line and emailed to us along a recent medical diagnosis and several completed reference questionnaires from individuals involved in the person’s life. If our criteria is met, a K4PSD trainer conducts an in-home interview with a K4PSD dog to meet the person, learn more about the family, and discuss further questions and concerns. Final acceptance is determined following the in-home interview. People or families may be disqualified at any time during the application process and should recognize that the dog who visits will not necessarily be the dog that will be placed with them.
K4PSD is currently accepting applications for people living in Southeastern Ontario who are more than three years old that have been diagnosed with autism or a related ASD. Some restrictions may apply.
Our service area includes only the counties of Prescott and Russell, Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, Lanark, Renfrew, Leeds and Grenville, Hastings, Prince Edward, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington; and the municipality of Ottawa.
If you meet the above criteria, please complete and submit our online application form and the medical diagnosis. Ask your non-family references to submit their online forms. A staff member will contact you once we have received all of your documentation.
(Click the “Online Application” link below to access the application. Please read the instructions before you start. Please do not try to print the form or send it by regular mail. Only forms received online will be considered. For assistance regarding applications please write us at firstname.lastname@example.org)