Pawsitive Impact: Assistance Dogs and Intellectually/Developmentally Disabled Individuals

Apr 30, 2020

It’s no secret that a dog is man’s best friend. But beyond that, they may also be man’s best assistant. 

Assistance dogs have been in the profession for ages, but as time goes by, science is proving the true versatility of trained support pooches.

Animals Help Us Feel Better

Animals, as it turns out, have an extremely positive impact on mental health. When you’re feeling low, curling up with your dog really helps. They show unconditional love for their humans and seem to possess a profound emotional intelligence that makes you feel warm and fuzzy. 

Knowing this, it’s no surprise that they can make a big difference in the physical and mental health of individuals with developmental disabilities.

What Can Assistance Dogs Help With?

Developmental disabilities can span a range of diagnoses and a wide variety of symptoms. Issues with cognition, motor function, speech, and social interaction can all be symptomatic of developmental conditions. One thing is sure, however: assistance dogs have an incredible, positive impact on those with developmental disabilities.

Service dogs can be trained to perform a variety of tasks for developmentally challenged people. They can be a mobility aid, and help their person develop an increased sense of independence. They can understand physical signals and non-verbal cues, making everyday life safer, easier, and more enjoyable.

Making Connections

But assistance dogs can do so much more than that. Besides keeping their humans safe from physical harm, they can also help them interact with others. A dog can be a source of connectivity to the rest of the world.

Assistance dogs can also be wonderful companions, an aspect that is just as important as the physical part of their jobs. Folks with developmental disabilities may feel different from their peers, which can lead to feelings of isolation. They might sometimes feel too heavily dependent on others, which leads to feelings of shame or guilt. 

Assistance dogs are the perfect companions for those who struggle to connect. They ask for so little and give so much affection in return. They provide the kind of emotional connection and support that is not always easy to find in other humans.

Reduced Fear, Loneliness, and Anxiety, Increased Independence and Fulfillment

Research shows that disabled youths aged 18 to 35 who were paired with assistance dogs showed significantly decreased levels of loneliness, isolation, fear, and anxiety – a difference of over 80% in each category! These dogs also helped them navigate social situations with more confidence, and simply made them feel more accepted and at ease with their disabilities. Plus, there was an increased sense of independence, which often leads to a more fulfilling life.

It’s incredible to see the difference these animals make in the lives of their humans. Not only can they make life easier and more accessible, but they can provide a vital emotional connection.

Overwhelmingly, assistance dogs make their handlers feel confident, accepted, and loved. Dogs don’t see people’s differences as something negative. They love you exactly as you are. It’s a quality we should all aspire to! 

The relationship between an assistance dog and a developmentally delayed individual is a truly special relationship – and it may just be a match made in dog heaven.

If you have an assistance dog, we’d love to hear your story! 
Learn more about ILA and our services or click here to donate. Your contributions help improve the lives of hundreds of developmentally disabled Individuals.

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