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Dogs for the Disabled’s experience taught us that children with Autism found the animals non-judgemental presence calming.
Kingwood Dogs for the Disabled Project
Kingwood first started working with Dogs for the Disabled in the summer of 2010 when the charity approached Kingwood to propose a joint venture. Kingwood was keen to be involved in this pioneering work and a number of meetings were held to develop the pilot project.
Dogs for the Disabled is a charity that works with dogs to assist those with physical disabilities and families who have a child affected by autism. It is for this latter reason that Kingwood was interested in exploring the potential benefits the project may bring to the people we support.
Dogs for the Disabled’s experience taught us that children with autism found the animals' non-judgemental presence calming. Also those with limited verbal communication skills found it much less demanding talking with a dog, due to less expectation placed on them to communicate efficiently.
It is hoped that the dogs can have a positive effect on some of the people Kingwood supports in a number of ways. Firstly, active involvement with a dog can increase an individual’s confidence and increase their motivation to try new activities. Secondly, the dog’s ability to remain calm at all times can help those supported remain safe and relaxed, even in busy situations. Also the dog can represent a constant focus point for an individual in unfamiliar places and thus help decrease anxiety. Lastly the project can provide a structure and routine for those supported to follow and assist their development.
At present there are 4 people within Kingwood who are taking part in the project. Each person is involved in their own specific way but all participate in a certificate programme where they learn how to care for a dog. There is usually a weekly visit and it is during these visits that the people we support work towards their certificates and build up their relationships with the dog.
Area Manager Kathy Wallbanks is the project manager for the programme and she has kindly written an update below on how the pilot has progressed. Thank you Kathy and we will all look forward to hearing more in the coming year.
Kingwood Dogs for the Disabled Project Update
Everything has been going really well this year with all but one of our original volunteers still benefitting from their interaction with Pepsi and her colleagues (oh and Jan of course)!
We introduced a certificate system earlier in the year which means that the people we support are able to work towards specific goals. These range from mastering the sometimes tricky art of putting a lead on the dog to cleaning up after them on walks, grooming, walking, road awareness etc. All participants seem to have responded well to this scheme as it provides a focus for their hard efforts and demonstrates to them just how much they have learnt and continue to learn each week.
We have regular update meetings with DFTD to address any issues that may have arisen and to discuss what we hope to achieve in the future. At our last meeting we decided that having now had the benefit of some experience (the initial phase having been a pilot scheme) the project as a whole would benefit from having designated support staff who will provide a consistent approach the programme. To this end we will be speaking to all staff who have expressed an interest in becoming involved on a more regular basis with a view to taking this further. We believe this will be of great benefit to everyone and enable a more accurate monitoring process to take place.
All in all its been a great start enjoyed by many and with some fantastic results for those taking part, so our thanks go to Peps and her colleagues at DFTD. DFTD and Kingwood remain committed to this project and look forward to the coming year.
Kathy Wallbanks, Project Manager