Co-founded by our very own Dr. Jody Sandler, BluePath Service Dogs provides children touched by autism with service dogs 'offering safety, companionship, and opportunities for independence.' The service dogs can be used as support tools for parents in the same way they can be used to see increased developmental success – and happiness – in children with autism.
In fact, a 2014 study conducted by the University of Missouri – Columbia found that 'dog ownership benefits families of children with autism' and a 2016 study conducted by researchers at the University of Lincoln in England found that dogs 'de-stress families with autistic children.'
The latter study also determined that the stress levels of those families continued to decrease, even years later, which demonstrates the long-term benefits of bringing home a dog.
Autism service dogs can help children and their families in a number of ways, including:
• Performing everyday tasks, such as opening doors
• Using their bodies to apply pressure to their owners in order to ground them when they feel anxious or overstimulated
• Interrupting harmful behaviors
• Providing guidance when their owner feels disoriented or lost
• Preventing children from bolting
BluePath's service dogs come from three wonderful organizations – Project 2 Heal, Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, and Southeastern Guide Dogs – and their training begins when they're eight-weeks-old. The pups are socialized and taught basic obedience skills until they turn 14-months-old and start working with a professional trainer. By the time they turn two, the dogs are ready to be placed with a family.
And, for anyone who might be wondering, any dogs that are determined to be better suited as pets than as service animals are offered to the hardworking people who raised and fostered them free of charge. If those people are unable to take them, they are considered for public adoption for a fee.
For more information, check out BluePath Service Dogs' FAQ page.
About Dr. Sandler
Dr. Sandler is a New York native. He was born in Yonkers, moved to Yorktown Heights as a teenager, and now lives in Hopewell Junction.
In 1990, he became the first Director of Veterinary Services for Guiding Eyes for the Blind. After working with them for 25 years, he co-founded BluePath Service Dogs alongside his wife, Caroline McCabe-Sandler, and their friend and colleague, Michelle Brier.
He has lectured at countless conferences across the United States and, in 2016, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recognized him as the Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year.
We are very proud of Dr. Sandler's accomplishments and we are fortunate to have him on our team.