PAWS FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

Some useful information about the program

Am I elegible?
These workshops are open to parents of children aged between 3-16 years, with a clinical diagnosis of autism. Families are welcome whether they have a pet dog or not.
Will my pet dog get public access rights?
Pet dogs will not receive public access rights or become registered assistance dogs.
I don’t yet have a pet dog. Do I need to get one before I attend the workshops?
Owning a pet dog is not a requirement. We have designed workshops for both families who do not yet have a dog but are considering giving a home to one, as well as those families who already have a dog in the home.
Will you supply a pet dog for me?

We’re unable to supply a pet dog for you as each family will have different requirements and preferences and so will be suited to different dogs. The workshops will cover information on topics such as factors to consider when thinking about getting a pet dog, what type of dog to look for, and the options for sourcing a dog. Find out more about the workshops here.

How do I attend the PAWS Workshops?
Registrations are currently closed for our 2018 sessions, we will update our website when we have more information on session availability.
Is there a cost for joining the PAWS Project?
As we are a charity, there is a one off cost of $70 payable at workshop one. This covers all materials given, lunch and refreshments at each workshop.
Will I be able to bring my child along to the workshops?
Unfortunately we are not able to offer childcare during the workshops. The workshops are designed to provide parents with the necessary information and experience to take home with them to introduce to the rest of the family. The majority of workshops are held during school hours to hopefully make arranging childcare easier.
Will I be able to bring my pet dog along to the workshops?
For a number of reasons, including not having the necessary facilities, we do not allow pet dogs to attend workshops. We will provide dogs for practical elements where appropriate.
Will I be able to purchase materials and access support without attending the workshops?
Due to the nature of the PAWS Project, it is necessary for at least one parent to attend all three workshops.

Workshops will include a considerable amount of demonstrations, discussions and opportunities for practical dog handling, and so the support materials alone will not be sufficient to cover the PAWS Project.

Applications temporarily closed

Due to overwhelming demand, we have had to temporarily close the application process for this program. We are working hard to reopen the process and provide the best service we can to those who could benefit from one of our extraordinary dogs. 

Please visit this page in mid 2019 for updated information.

Children and families living with Autism program

Autism is a persistent developmental disorder, evident from early childhood, that affects almost 1 in every 150 Australian children. True to our pioneering nature, Assistance Dogs Australia have been on the front line of training and placing dogs with children with Autism in Australia.

Once placed with their new Assistance Dog, children with Autism show remarkable improvement across their social, verbal and cognitive skills, as well as the ability to learn routines and structures that aid development, communication and community interaction.

Additionally, one of the most rewarding elements of this kind of placement is the impact our dogs have on the entire family. Often siblings of children with disabilities undergo stress and isolation from other family members, but our very special dogs have a habit of bringing families back together — providing assistance for kids in need, but also companionship, improved sleep, peace of mind and stability for the entire household.

An Autism Service Dog can provide support in the following areas:

  • Communication skills
  • Confidence and independence
  • Empathy to new situations
  • Emotional understanding
  • Social relationships
  • Tactile perception
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Provide routine and stability
  • Environmental understanding
  • Self-esteem
  • Family relationships
  • Behaviour patterns

An Autism Service Dog has full public access rights meaning they are allowed in any public place* and on all public transport. It is illegal to refuse entry to a Service Dog.

*The only exceptions are zoos, aquariums, sterile environments, food preparation areas and quarantine areas.

People who receive an Autism Service Dog are provided with a photographic identity badge as proof of Service Dog status, which they must take with them in public, and a Service Dog jacket for the dog.

Children and families living with Autism Services

PAWS Workshop

We know that each child on the autism spectrum is different, and so before applying for an Autism Service Dog, parents are required to attend a PAWS Workshop with Assistance Dogs Australia. These workshops are a great chance to meet our staff and explore how an Autism Service Dog will work within the family.

Animal-Assisted Intervention Therapy

In 2017, Assistance Dogs Australia began a pilot Animal-Assisted Intervention Therapy program with an Assistance Dog (and its trainer) involved in all sessions as the primary therapeutic tool.

Part of this program is 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.

  1. Sessions will be play-based, with interventions divided into 3 areas:
  2. 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.
  3. Play (imaginative, creative, structured, musical, interactive), eg. tug-of-war, fetch, Doga (yoga with a dog!), animal hospital and emotion charades.
  4. 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.

More information will be made available later this year on how to be involved in this program 2018 and beyond.

How can I apply for an Autism Service Dog?

To express your interest in an Autism Service Dog, parents must attend our PAWS workshops. 

Each Assistance Dog costs over $35,000 to train

This includes everything from purchasing a puppy to food, vaccinations, training and placement. Assistance Dogs are provided free of charge to people in need.

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