Pet dogs may be able to help people with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Pet dogs may be able to help people with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Pet dogs may be able to help people with Autism Spectrum Disorders

The charity ‘Dogs for the Disabled’ are seeking to define what exactly it is about the behaviour of pet dogs that brings about the improvement in the development of children who suffer from ASD, or Autism Spectrum Disorders, and also pinpoint those traits that trigger off desirable behaviour.

Dogs for the Disabled has over 20 years of experience in training assistance dogs to help both adults and children who have physical disabilities and also children with autism. Following on from the positive experiences that have come from training dogs for autism assistance, and the anecdotal evidence that is also available, the charity is now collaborating with the NAS, National Autistic Society and the University of Lincoln.

Their aim is to investigate exactly what is with dogs and their behaviour that has brought about such amazing changes in children who have autism, and help them in both their emotional and social development.

The pioneering PAWS (Parents Autism Workshops and Support) research project, funded by the Big Lottery, was established last year and the charity now needs more families to take part.

Since its inception in June 2010, nearly 200 families across the UK have benefitted from the workshops that are run alongside the research project.  These workshops provide parents of children with ASDs with the opportunity to come together and share experiences, find out more about owning a pet dog, and explore the potential of training it to help them and their child overcome the effects of their condition through focusing on building solid, positive relationships between the pet dog and child.

Miri, a short-haired Jack Russell, has given eleven year old Josh who has Aspergers Syndrome a greater sense of responsibility and a vehicle to relieve stress. His Mum Suzanne comments: “Most people with an ASD find it extremely difficult to cope with sudden changes and things outside their normal routine, and Josh was no different. Miri has had a great impact on Josh and the functioning of my family. Before introducing Miri Josh never used to like getting ready for school, however now that Miri needs feeding and sorting out in the morning Josh is up and eager to get on with the day. Miri is also who he will talk to when stressed.”

Corri Waitt, PAWS Research Coordinator at Dogs for the Disabled, comments: “It’s very exciting to be involved in a great project that could benefit so many families today and in the future that have children with an ASD. If you are a parent of a child with autism you will understand the challenges and frustrations caused as a result of their condition. At Dogs for the Disabled we believe that pet dogs can help your whole family overcome these challenges and enhance everyday life.

“If you are considering dog ownership, I urge you to think about taking part in the PAWS research project so families with children with ASD can better equip themselves to overcome the challenges of their child’s condition.”

If you have a child aged three to sixteen that has been diagnosed with an ASD and you are considering taking on a pet dog in the next year, or if you already have a pet dog, then the charity would like to hear from you.

The PAWS research project consists of two stages, but you do not have to take part in both. The first stage includes three telephone interviews, conducted before and after adding a pet dog to your family. This is only applicable to families intending on getting a pet dog in the next year. The second stage involves a home visit to video record the interactions between a child with autism and the pet dog.

If you’re interested in taking part in this ground-breaking research project and helping thousands of families in a similar situation, please click on the PAWS link at

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