History of Assistance Dog Programme
Launched in 2005 our Assistance Dog Programme was the first of its kind in Europe. We have over 350 families who have availed of our service since we first launched. Building on our 30 years of experience training Guide Dogs at that point we adapted our approach to cater for families of children with autism.
The original intention of our programme was to provide an anchoring support to parents to counter Bolting. Bolting is something that families of children with autism deal with daily and can cause distress and results in many cases with families becoming unable to socialise as a unit. This split in activity has a profound effect on how relationships develop. Our dogs brought these families back together and the Access Rights it afforded meant families were now in a position to be just that a family.
As we grew with our families we found that our children were also developing stronger verbalisation and socialisation skills. As other services developed around autism it became clear that our Assistance Dogs were adding hugely to the child’s ability to respond to interventions and were gaining new skills that otherwise may not have been possible.
We have spent the past 12 months working with University College Cork, professionals from within autism, our families and the other Charities in this sector to understand the true benefits of Assistance Dogs. This work has allowed us to re-design our program to make it as useful, supportive and beneficial to our families as possible.