A group of parents will meet the newest addition to their families this week, as four Autism Assistance Dogs are matched with families in Perth.
Four black Labradors and Retrievers, Rufus, Barney, Phoenix and Pact have been training for this day for two years. The Assistance Dogs are about to meet their new owners, thanks to Assistance Dogs Australia, a national charity that provides Assistance Dogs to people living with a wide range of disabilities.
The dogs have been learning a range of skills to help their future owner with their everyday life, both at home with volunteer puppy raisers, and at the Assistance Dogs Australia National Training Centre.
This week, the dogs will meet their new families, as they are introduced to to their new teammate; a child or young adult with autism.
Dr Julie Netto, occupational therapist and lecturer at Curtin University will be working with a team of researchers to follow the experience of the families and their Assistance Dogs.
“The use of Assistance Dogs with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is an emerging intervention that offers a range of benefits to both the child with ASD and their family.” said Dr Netto.
“We know that Assistance Dogs can help with children’s emotional regulation and behavior; reduce parenting stress; increase socialization opportunities for families; and provide companionship and skill development for children.”
Assistance Dogs Australia have helped over 55 families with autism, providing Assistance Dogs free of charge and giving consistent support through workshops.
This week, the families will take part in a week-long training workshop with their new dogs and the staff from Assistance Dogs Australia, which will include a number of visits to shopping centres, cinemas and public places.
“We are very excited to place four dogs at the same time, and change the lives of four families.” said Assistance Dogs Australia Programs Manager, Alberto Alvarez-Campos.