When you love someone with Autism, it may not always look or feel the same as relating to someone who does not experience Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Some of our loved ones may feel overwhelmed by their senses: Some days everything can seem to bright, too loud, or too still or too close.

On those days, even being in your own skin can feel uncomfortable.

Dealing with big emotions is a challenge for us all. But when you combine that with sensory overload, that is a big ask for anyone.

Seeing someone you love overwhelmed, in emotional pain, and perhaps physical discomfort will usually generate an urge to comfort and calm.

But, cuddling, holding someone close, or even gentle physical touch can often have the opposite effect on a person’s already overloaded nervous system.

As a mum of child with Level 1 ASD (or Aspergers as we used to say), I learned this the hard way.

The times when my daughter was in the most physical or emotional pain were the times I had to stand by and not follow that ‘mothering’ instinct.

Through my work, we met a lady who had therapy dogs, and we started spending a bit of time around them.

The dogs were happy to just be around my daughter, and she was happy to be around them – on her terms.

I could see how calming they were for her. After a long day of school where it probably felt like everyone wanted a piece of her – the dogs had no expectations.

And, over time, she would pat them, and eventually hug them.

Even though hugging my daughter is rarely possible for me, and she never initiates that herself, I feel like the dogs are doing that on my behalf.

In our lives, as with many who are blessed with animal assisted therapy, love really does equal 4 legs and a tail.

Submitted by a Coffs Harbour mum.

 (The views contained within submitted articles do not necessarily reflect those of Panda’s Paws Healing with Hounds).