Oxfordshire Freemasons has donated £60,000 to Banbury-based Dogs for Good to help children with autism make the most of their family dog.
The grant, which will be used over three years, will be invested in the PAWS Family Workshops, a series of three one-day sessions which demonstrate how a well-trained family dog can benefit the behaviour and development of autistic children.
Forty families in the county will benefit from the cash with a total of 150 children to benefit across the country.
Alison Pearce, whose daughter has benefitted from the service said: “At the first workshop, I was amazed by the many ways in which a pet dog could be trained to help an autistic child and how this would benefit my daughter. I sat there thinking ‘this could be life-changing.’
“It was also beneficial to meet and talk to other parents of children with autism. I remember thinking ‘I’m not alone, these people really understand.’
“The help from Dogs for Good doesn’t just end after the course.
“We have continuing support and advice from the Dogs for Good team, and the help my daughter receives from her dog continues to increase.”
The workshops use practical demonstrations, hands-on learning and course handouts.
Family dogs, when trained, can provide a calming influence, reducing the impact of ‘meltdowns’; a chance to learn about ‘life essentials’ such as personal hygiene through grooming their dog; development of motor skills; improve family relations and motivatioin to go out for a walk, visit new places or go to bed with a dog by their side.
After the workshops, attendees can access further support from Dogs for Good by telephone and email as well as special advanced workshops.
There is also an online forum for parents helping them to share experiences.
Since the workshops were introduced at Dogs for Good’s Banbury centre, nearly 1,000 families have attended, with 75 per cent now working with a family dog.
In addition 550 families are expected to benefit over the next three years.
The grant from Oxfordshire Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales.
Andrew Keech from Oxfordshire Freemasons said: “I’m very pleased we’re able to help Dogs for Good who do such wonderful work with autistic children and their families.
“Thanks to them, many hundreds of people have seen a huge improvement in their quality of life.”