Moosh - child with dog

Anyone living with autism – be it yourself or a family member – knows just how challenging life can be. Autism is defined as a developmental disorder that affects the nervous system. Symptoms generally appear in early childhood, and although they are far-ranging and unique to each person diagnosed, there are some common issues that most people will have to deal with. These may include:

  • an impact on one’s ability to communicate and interact with others
  • delayed learning of speech and language
  • difficulty holding a conversation or making eye contact
  • an inability to reason normally
  • an obsessive and intense interest in something
  • sensory issues
  • reduced motor skills.

These conditions can manifest themselves on a daily basis in many different ways, and can make life for a person with autism – and their family members – very difficult. One of the most common and debilitating feelings that people living with autism have to deal with is constant anxiety.

Something that anyone living with autism will be aware of is that consistency is key. Changes to routine or surprises can trigger a reaction. Creating an unvarying environment and routine helps a person with autism feel safe. One of the ways to help achieve this is to introduce an emotional support animal into your life. A lot of evidence surrounding autism and ESAs shows that these animals can make a positive difference. So if you’ve been wondering “Can ESAs help autism?” and “Can you get an emotional support animal for autism?”, read on as we answer all your questions.

Moosh - man with dog
We’ve got everything you need to know about emotional support animals and autism.

There are many psychological and emotional conditions that qualify an individual for an ESA. Autism is one such condition. Research has shown that because an emotional support animal provides a constant, consistent, and generally predictable presence in the life of a person with autism, that person can feel less anxious and more stable with an ESA on hand. Having the support of a loyal friend who demands nothing but is simply there when you need them is a great comfort. People living with autism often rely on specific repetitive behaviors in order to steady themselves in certain challenging circumstances; an ESA can help relieve this by giving the person something else to focus on.

Other ways in which autism and ESAs go hand-in-hand is in the privileges granted to legitimate ESA letter holders. The law enables you to take your ESA with you to many public places where you would not normally be allowed to have a pet. Living with autism invariably means attending a lot of medical appointments: doctors, specialists, occupational or physical therapists, and so on. Any of these visits can be trigger events for a person with autism. Dealing with people, possibly coping with public transport, perhaps being faced with a delay or a longer visit than anticipated: these are all things that could upset an innately anxious person who doesn’t like changes to their routine. Being able to take your emotional support animal with you to these appointments can be a great help. You can also take your ESA into many restaurants and stores, which can make an outing or trip easier to manage. Be sure to have your ESA letter to hand in case you’re questioned by anyone.

Another way the law may help with emotional support animals and autism is through the Fair Housing Act. According to this Act, a landlord cannot discriminate against you if you wish to have your registered ESA living with you in rented accommodation. Your pet must be clean and well-behaved, of course, and not be a nuisance to neighbors close by. Which brings us to the question: “Which ESA is best for autism?” Well, this one is a no-brainer! Hands down, it’s a dog. And research has revealed that the bigger the dog, the better! A dog is the one ESA that is almost guaranteed to give its owner unrequited love. Some breeds are better than others at this, so choose your breed carefully. Certain breeds can also learn to pick up on their owner’s emotional state and can act accordingly to quietly calm and support them. By simply being present and focused entirely on their owner, an emotional support dog goes a long way towards making life a little easier for people living with autism. There are many other well-documented thoughts around emotional support animals and autism, so it’s well worth doing some research.

Moosh - ESA dog
An ESA dog can be a great help to someone living with autism.

In addition to the Fair Housing Act, the Air Carrier Access Act allows you to take certain emotional support animals in the cabin of an airplane with you, making air travel less challenging and easier to cope with. This clearly does depend on the type of pet, and you must pre-book with the airline and have your ESA letter to hand when you board.

For those of you living with autism, or who have a relative they’d like to help out, hopefully this has gone some way to answering the question “Can ESAs help autism?”. If you think owning a registered ESA might support you or a family member, then apply with us today and we will do our best to answer any outstanding questions you might have.