Tuesday, September 20

Dogs Helping Autistic Children

K-9 Magazine has published an article about a new initiative in the UK.  Sheffield based Support Dogs, one of the UK’s leading charities dedicated to training assistance dogs, in February of 2008, launched a £1 million appeal to help it to introduce a unique national initiative to provide dogs specially trained to help children with Autism.  Support Dogs trained the UK’s first Autism Assistance Dog with the support of Irish Guide Dogs, which has run a successful program in Ireland for over three years.

This program is so interesting to me.  I always am amazed at service dogs, but this is very unique in the way the dogs help the children.  
Autism Assistance Dogs make a real and very positive difference to the lives of children with Autism and their families and the work by Irish Guide Dogs has already  identified a number of direct benefits:
·        Improved safety levels for children with autism through control of the child by commanding the dog which acts as an anchor.

·        Improved behaviour and socialisation skills through acting as a constant companion and forming a unique bond.
·        Creates freedom for the child and family to go out from the home, allowing full public access – shops, restaurants, hotels and schools.
·        Expands the child’s capabilities to experience more from life.
·        Calms the child thereby increasing attention span and improving aptitude for learning.
·        Reduces stress for all family members.
·        Teaches the child responsibilities.
·        Positive changes in behaviour, lower aggression level and comfort when upset.
The goals for this new initiative are ambitious, a target of £1 million to fund the first four years of the program (allowing them to provide an inclusive national service with no regional restrictions), train 40 dogs every year by 2012, this meaning that 68 dogs will be trained by the end of the first four years.  Which means an estimated 300 people will be helped and they will have four fully qualified full time Autism Assistance Dog trainers.

This is such a great program and I look forward to hearing the success stories.  

To read the full article, bark on the link:  Bark!