Often times, it’s difficult to fully understand how a medical condition can impact the way people function throughout the day. And, it’s not always easy for individuals to get the help they need when flares or meltdowns occur. For some, though, there are coping mechanisms and unique resources that can provide enough help to improve circumstances. That’s what happened to Danielle Jacobs, a 24 year old woman with Asperger’s Syndrome.
How a Video and a Dog Made a Difference
Jacobs’s condition can cause meltdowns. As she puts it, there’s simply too much input in her brain and not enough output occurring, which leads to a “crash.” She recently recorded one of these instances on a camera and posted it online. What’s even more interested to those who struggle to understand Asperger’s, which is a high-functioning form of Autism, is how a dog can make such a huge impact. In that video, Samson, Jacobs’s dog is seen using trained responses to help her through the involuntary meltdown. The video gained a lot of attention and, at the time of this writing, had more than 2.4 million views.
Samson was a rescue animal from Halo Animal Rescue in Phoenix, Arizona. The dog wasn’t formally trained, either. Rather, Jacobs trained the dog herself. She obtained Samson when the dog was just a year old and, over the last four years, has continued this training.
How Samson Prevents Harm
When Ms. Jacobs experiences an involuntary meltdown, Samson knows to interact. She often displays self injurious behavior, meaning that she hurts herself when an episode occurs. This can lead to injuries and, in some cases, significant harm. The dog, though, is trained to use his paws and body to block the woman’s hands from hitting her head. Although the video makes it seem as though the dog is comforting her, she explains that’s not what Samson is actually doing. Rather, the dog responds on action instead of on emotion.
In the video, it’s possible to see Samson move to lie across her lap. In this case, she is not providing affection, but rather providing therapeutic tactile stimulation for Jacobs. When she feels the weight of the dog on her lap, it helps her to check in with herself. If he did not do this, she may not be able to consciously realize what is occurring.
Autism Dogs Are Life Changing
While service dogs like this are not as well known as dogs for the visually impaired or those for vets dealing with post traumatic stress disorder, animals like Samson can create a life changing benefit. The dogs, which are beneficial to both adults and children, help individuals to gain better sleep and to improve social interactions. They also work to move a person from an overwhelming situation that is difficult to process to a more calm situation. Because they can do this, they can help an individual to cope with the overwhelming overload of stimuli from smells, crowds, sounds or other triggers.
Jacobs says she posted the video for a very specific reason. She wants people to know that, when a child is experiencing a tantrum in a grocery store or an adult like her is struggling with a meltdown that such actions are not ones they can control. The wiring in her brain, she says, isn’t the same and that means that she cannot communicate what is really wrong and experiences the traumatic episode instead.
As for Jacobs, she hopes to continue encouraging people managing Asperger’s and other types of Autism disorders to turn to dogs as a tool. She also hopes to be able to work in a dog-training company to further help people.