When I am out with Lucy in public, the most common assumptions people make are that she is either a guide dog or a seizure alert dog. While I was diagnosed with epilepsy as a young child, my seizures are no longer severe or frequent enough to require the assistance of a medical alert dog.
I can understand how people would assume that Lucy is a guide dog though, because until about ten years ago guide dogs and dogs for people with severe physical disabilities were just about the only types of assistance dogs. However, times have changed and service dog breeding and training programs are providing dogs to assist with virtually every type of diagnosis from diabetes to depression to hearing impairment.
In addition, people are just getting used to seeing a person who doesn't appear to have an outwardly visible disability go around town with a service dog. Some people see me walking past and say, "Hey, that's a seizure dog, isn't it?" or "Hey! nice guide dog!" and I stop and say, "Thanks, but she is actually an autism service dog being trained to help with Asperger's Syndrome."
The next time you see an assistance dog in your community, remember to keep an open mind because the dog might not be trained for visual impairment or severe physical disability. There are a lot of dogs out there that help people with a lot more than just those two diagnoses now. And remember, sometimes the disability is invisible, but it's there.
If you would like to learn more about how an assistance dog can help a person with autism or Asperger's, please visit: www.4paws.org (a national service dog agency which places autism service dogs with children and adolescents on the spectrum)
Thanks and have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Adria and Lucy