With a commitment to benefitting the widest possible number of families in need, Dogs for Autism exclusively provides autism assistance dogs at no cost to families, all over the UK.
The Founder and Chief Executive of Dogs for Autism, Hilary Armour, is a qualified dog trainer, animal behaviourist and teacher. Throughout her teaching career Hilary has specialised in teaching autistic students with additional learning disabilities.
Hilary’s son was diagnosed with autism as a young child and this was the catalyst for her work training assistance dogs. Recognising the benefits for an autistic young person of being partnered with a dog, but being unable to access an assistance dog through any of the existing charities, she used her dog-trainer experience to ‘owner-train’ her son’s first dog. Once out and about with their dog, she was frequently approached by other parents in need, desperate to know where she had managed to find an autism assistance dog. Becoming aware of the sheer number of isolated families, just within her local area, for whom being able to access the world with the support of a dog could change their lives, Hilary decided to act.
Hilary’s vision is that Dogs for Autism will become for the autistic community what Guide dogs for the Blind is to the visually impaired.
How we work:
We have a team of trainers who house and train a dog for a specific autistic partner. The trainer and dog visit the family weekly, creating a bond between the autistic person and the dog and gradually integrating the dog into the family life, so that when ready to move in with them this is done in a seamless and natural way. The charity also has a wealth of autism experience and provides support to the whole family unit.
How our Dogs help:
Reduce anxiety and increase safety in public
Help to de-escalate anxieties and calm difficult behaviours
Play communication games to encourage social engagement, motivate speech and language efforts and build social confidence
Alert family members to the onset of a changing mood, giving them time to assess the situation and decide on a course of action
Provide positive attachment/unconditional friendship to individuals who often find themselves to be socially isolated and lonely Administer deep pressure therapy
The virus situation and lockdown are causing significant challenges for our families, with high levels of anxiety, difficulties in processing information and uncertainty about the future. Autistic people struggle with change and a lack of routine, and many of our autistic children can't understand what is happening and why they are being so restricted. Those whose dogs are not yet living with them are also having to cope with not seeing their special friend, who we have worked so hard to create a bond with. We are trying to keep that bond strong by doing video calls, but this is no substitute for the benefits of spending time with them.
It is difficult to predict whether this way of life will become the 'new normal' for our families over time, but currently the parents are having to deal with their own anxieties and stresses about the financial, health and social impact of Covid-19, as well as remaining strong and calm for their children and young people. Our work with the families is playing a key role in improving their mental health at this time, and we want to support the family throughout this really difficult period. We are part of their support network and they know that we are here for them and give them access to professionals who understand the challenges of living with autism. This not only benefits the autistic person, but the whole family.
Although we can put future growth on hold, we have a strong commitment and passion to enable our current partnerships to flourish and succeed. Any funding received will be used for our work with our existing families and dogs, enabling us to support them through the current pandemic and beyond.
"Since Luna has entered our lives Zana dances with delight when she is told Luna is coming to visit and has learned her second word, which aptly is ‘Luna’"
"Willow has been doing a great job of looking after Rosie during these uncertain times, in fact I think she is looking after us all."
This project offers rewards in return for your donation.