Can Dogs be Trained to Assist Autistic Individuals with Self-Injurious Behavior?
· Self-Injurious Behavior (SIB) is one of the most devastating behaviors exhibited by people with autism
· SIB is displayed by 10-15% of individuals with autism
· Conventional pharmaceuticals have shown little clinical value in treating SIB in autistic individuals and often cause serious adverse side effects that cause other health problems that trigger more SIB
· Seizure response dogs are custom trained to assist individuals with epilepsy
· So, it’s possible dogs could be custom trained to re-direct individuals with autism who engage in self-injurious behaviors
· A dog could be trained to intervene in positive ways during SIB
· For example, if an autistic person slaps their face, the dog could be trained to lick the face. If SIB involves body punching the dog could be trained to use its paws to block or re-direct head hits or climb on the persons lap to offer sensory/comfort support.
· A careful assessment could identity specific SIBs that could best be helped by a custom trained SIB response dog
· Canine training experts could be utilized in identifying best type of dogs to train for autistic individuals who engage in SIB
· Donations, grants or other funding could be used to start pilot programs to train Self-Injurious Behavior Response Dogs and match them with certain autistic individuals (obviously considering dog’s safety is important)
We have a severely-autistic son who suffers from SIB.
We've witnessed a few times when our Australian Cattle Dogs have jumped on our son and began licking his face during the onset of mild SIB, which was strictly BEHAVIORAL, not related to underlying medical issue.
During the strictly behavioral SIB, the dog licking our son's face caused our son to start laughing. He stopped the SIB. He reached out towards the dog.
What's more, our dogs aren't afraid of him. Because our autistic son is always dropping food outside, the dogs think he's some kind of reward God. So they're very protective of him.
Could they also be learning to protect him from himself?
We recently witnessed one of our dogs use her PAWS to tap our son’s hands as he was trying to punch himself. Again, this was during rather mild to moderate SIB, but it surprised us that she did this.
I don't know if a dog intervening would work during a full-blown SIB meltdown. But, we can't rule that scenario out. Nobody knows the answer, because it's never been evaluated, researched or tried as an adjunct therapy in the treatment of autism and SIB.
Dogs are man (and woman's) best friend.
Autistic individuals who engage in SIB can find comfort from dogs, so why aren’t there dogs trained to respond to self-injurious behavior to help autistic people with SIB?
Is it possible? Yes, I think it is.