Autism Assistance Dogs
"The biggest change is that we can leave the house for a walk without any stress or fear of danger. It's such a relief to know he is safe. Blake has given Riley a new level of independence." - Nicole, mother of Riley
About the program
Guide Dogs' Autism Assistance Dog Program focuses on improving the quality of life for families of children living with Autism. Our highly skilled Autism Assistance Dogs offer families a number of benefits, the most important being independence. This is achieved by providing a fully trained dog along with training and support for parents and their child.
Trained to enhance children's safety
On outings, the child's safety is enhanced by being connected to a body piece/coat on the dog through a safety belt around the child's waist. In conjunction with this, the parent has control of the dog through their own lead and will apply vocal commands to the dog.
The child is encouraged to walk beside their dog but should they attempt to run off, the dog is trained to resist by sitting or lying down, acting as an 'anchor'. This gives the parent time to intervene and diffuse the situation.
The absolute joy of independence and inclusion
An Autism Assistance Dog assists with early intervention training to facilitate independence and the skills to manage challenging situations, with less stress.
An Autism Assistance Dog promotes positive social interaction and assists in the development of the skills used to enable participation in community, social and recreational activities.
There are many benefits for the whole family, including social outings and activities becoming much more possible and less stressful for all.
The benefits are invaluable
Families living with Autism Assistance Dogs have reported the following benefits:
- improved quality and quantity of sleep as the child may wake less with the dog sleeping in his/her room
- positive changes in the child’s behaviour
- comfort for the child
- full public access, including restaurants and shops.
“We decided to try Jackson with the beautiful Windsor. They developed a relationship quite quickly, which was delightful to see. We have been on a few walks to the family’s local park to see how the two of them interact and I have seen such amazing progress in a short time.” Susan, Supervisor of Dog Services at Guide Dogs SA/NT
Who is eligible for assistance?
Our dogs are trained to benefit children who:
- are aged between 3 and 8 years
- have a confirmed diagnosis of autism
- have a severe deficit in verbal and non-verbal communication skills
- have a severe impairment in functioning
- have limited to nil social interaction ability
- have severely repetitive behaviours
- have severe and frequent absconding tendencies
Parents are required to meet additional criteria, which are available upon application.
Please note that Guide Dogs SA/NT only offers Autism Dog Services in South Australia at the present time due to demand.
A real sense of commitment
Once accepted into the program, one or both parents must commit to a five-day in-house course at our centre in Morphett Street. A subsequent three-week intensive training program is conducted, with the child, in the child's home environment.
Autism Assistance Dogs can go anywhere
An Autism Assistance Dog has the same legal access rights as a Guide Dog.
It is clearly identified by its body piece/coat which brings awareness of the dog’s special circumstances. This supports public access and inclusion.
What else you need to know
Please contact Guide Dogs on 08 8203 8333 or via our online enquiry form for more details about applying for an Autism Assistance Dog.
Brochures and Fact Sheets Available: