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Autism and service animals

This article on autism and service animals is offered by Aaron Kinnersly who shares his personal story of his son and the benefits that Derry, a service dog, brought to his son and the family.

The Life-Changing Impact of Service Animals for Autistic Children: A Personal Journey

Autism and service animals.


The bond between humans and animals has always been a powerful and transformative force. For children with autism, this bond can take on an even more significant meaning, providing comfort, companionship, and support in navigating the challenges of everyday life. In this article, I will share my personal journey of raising an autistic child and the incredible impact that our chocolate Labrador, Derry, has had on my son’s life, thanks in part to the support of Able WA, a leading NDIS Support Coordination Service.

The Journey Begins: Meeting Derry

It was a warm and sunny day when my son and I first met Derry, the energetic and lovable chocolate Labrador puppy who would soon become an integral part of our family. With his wagging tail and boundless energy, it was clear from the start that Derry would bring joy and companionship to my son’s life. But little did we know that he would become so much more than just a pet.

Autism and service dogs. Bonding on the first afternoon.

The Challenges of Autism and the Role of Service Animals

Raising a child with autism presents unique challenges, as every parent of an autistic child knows all too well. From sensory sensitivities and communication difficulties to the need for routine and predictability, navigating daily life can be a struggle for both the child and their family. That’s where the incredible benefits of service animals come in.

Service animals, like Derry, are trained to provide specific support for individuals with disabilities, including autism. These amazing animals can help with tasks such as calming an autistic child during a meltdown, providing a sense of security in unfamiliar environments, and even alerting parents to potential dangers. The bond that forms between a service animal and their human companion is unlike any other, and the benefits can be truly life-changing.

Training Derry: A Team Effort

Autism and service animals. First training jacket.

Training Derry to become a service animal was a team effort, with both myself and his trainer, Ariza Nel from Perth Canine Craft, contributing equally to his education. Over many months, we worked tirelessly to ensure that Derry was equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary to support my son in every aspect of his life. The result is a well-trained, responsive, and compassionate service animal who has made an immeasurable difference in our lives, thanks in part to the guidance and support from Able WA.

The Power of a Bond: My Son and Derry

Since welcoming Derry into our family, I have witnessed firsthand the incredible impact that a service animal can have on an autistic child. The bond that has formed between my son and Derry is something truly special, offering comfort and support in a way that words cannot adequately describe. Together, they navigate the challenges of autism, learning from one another and growing as a team.


The journey of raising an autistic child can be filled with obstacles, but the love and support of a service animal can make all the difference. For my son and our family, Derry has been a beacon of hope and a constant source of companionship, helping us navigate the often-uncharted waters of autism. I am eternally grateful for the impact Derry has had on our lives and hope that our story can inspire others to consider the life-changing benefits that service animals can provide for autistic children, with the support of organizations like Able WA.


If you need support in getting a specialist independent placement for an autistic child or young adult, we will do our best to help. Click below for our Autism Schools and Colleges Placement Support Service.