Scentre Group funds exciting Australian first research project
7 February 2017
Assistance Dogs Australia is embarking on an exciting Australian first: a research project in collaboration with The University of Sydney to look at outcomes of a therapeutic program with children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) using trained Assistance Dogs.
The Animal Assisted Intervention Program has been funded by long-term supporters of the charity, Scentre Group via the Westfield Community Program. The program aims to make a sustainable contribution to the communities in which they operate. Scentre Group has supported a number of major programs for Assistance Dogs Australia including the PAWS Program helping parents and children with autism.
Commencing on 8 February 2017, 75 eligible children and adolescents will each participate in five occupational therapy sessions, with an Assistance Dog (and its trainer) involved in all sessions as the primary therapeutic tool.
Sessions will be play-based, with interventions divided into 3 areas:
- Self-care (dressing, grooming, eating), eg. preparing food for and feeding the Assistance Dog, brushing the Assistance Dog’s coat and dressing the Assistance Dog.
- Play (imaginative, creative, structured, musical, interactive), eg. tug-of-war, fetch, Doga (yoga with a dog!), animal hospital and emotion charades.
- Productivity (social skills, gross/fine motor skills, organisation/planning), eg. obstacle course, video modelling and social scripts.
The occupational therapist (OT) can tailor interventions to participants’ specific needs, and can use the Assistance Dog as an active participant in therapy or as a calming influence for the participant. Reports developed by the University of Sydney students will be submitted for publication in relevant peer reviewed journals, disseminating the study results nationally and internationally.
A number of accredited Assistance Dogs specifically trained to support children with Autism will be rotated through the project and will play an active role in the therapy sessions.
This is an Australian first and Assistance Dogs Australia is extremely excited about the opportunities and outcomes this project can create for those living with autism. The organisation is already placing Assistance Dogs with children with autism and seeing positive signs of the impact an Assistance Dog can have, not only for the child, but for the entire family.
Assistance Dogs Australia would like to thank Scentre Group and the Westfield Community Program for funding this research and helping us to help people with autism to live more independent lives.