RFI trains and places assistance dogs to children with Autism.

Autism_handsAutism spectrum disorder (ASD) and Autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized in varying degrees by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors. They include autistic disorder, Rhett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger Syndrome. ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention as well as physical health disturbances such as sleep and gastrointestinal issues. Some persons with ASD excel in visual skills, music, math and art.


The number of children born per year who will have autism.

Every 11 minutes a child is born who will soon be diagnosed with some form of autism.


One out of every 110 children have autism (1 out of 70 boys). It is the fastest growing developmental disability.

Early diagnosis of Autism and intervention, such as an assistance dog, can reduce the lifelong costs by as much as two-thirds.

Service Dog Needs for Children with Autism

The needs of children with Autism can be met by a service dog in several ways.

  • Tracking will be taught to these dogs so that they can find a child in any location where they have become separated from their parents.
  • Tethering: A tether is attached to the dog’s service vest and the belt of a child. These dogs are trained to sit any time the child forcefully pulls on the tether.
  • Snuggle: Dogs learn to comfort the child in times of panic and high anxiety.
  • Retrieving on command is huge for these kids, since it is an activity that they can constructively do with their new companion.

These dogs become the social “bridge” for these children, often helping even non-verbal children begin forms of verbal conversation. THIS IS AWESOME! Children talking for the first time in their lives, willing to approach new situations, and being comfortable in all settings with their new companion.