Carers' Week : Autism Dogs CIC

This week is Carers' Week! So we thought we'd ask one of our favourite organisations to contribute a post about perhaps the cutest carers of all: their specialist trained dogs for autistic people!

Autism Dogs Community Interest Company (CIC) are a unique non-for-profit company based in Congleton, Cheshire that trains Assistance Dogs for autistic people and Therapy Dogs to work in Special Educational Needs (SEN) environments within educational establishments or hospitals.

We are the first and only Assistance Dog Programme accredited by the National Autistic Society, an approved candidate member of Assistance Dogs International (ADI) / Assistance Dogs Europe (ADEu), full member of Animal Assisted Intervention International (aaii) and Society for Companion Animal Studies (SCAS), supporting member of the Animal Behaviour and Training Council (ABTC), and a pre-approved training school for Assistance Dogs by British Airways.

We are driven and motivated by our love of dogs and our passion for helping autistic people. By adding the wonderful benefits of a highly-trained dog into the life of an autistic person, we hope to improve their independence, and enable them to develop new skills and gain greater social confidence.

“My anxiety is rising and my dog senses this. He pushes his head against my leg. If I am already sat down, he will use his paw to signal that I need to calm down. My senses are becoming flooded with information but I can focus on the pressure of my dog resting against me. I stroke him. The sensation of soft fur and the warmth of his body is comforting. If I am at home, he will rest across my lap to provide Deep Pressure Therapy and he lets me

pick up his paws and gently run my hands through his fur, touch his ears and tail. I don’t feel the need to hit my head because the rhythm of the stroking and the weight of his body helps me to feel grounded and safe. If I do start to hit myself, (I used to do this a lot because it helped to ground me and provide soothing rhythm and pressure. This can be dangerous. Please DO NOT try this.) My dog will knock my hand with his nose or crawl underneath me to provide a barrier. Deep Pressure is even available to me in public settings. I have had a meltdown in the middle of a crowded supermarket that my dog has calmed by laying across my lap as I crouch down on the floor. If my sight is flooded with information, I can grasp the guide handle and rely on my dog to navigate me through the crowd. If I need water, my dog will fetch it for me. If I am left exhausted by the meltdown, my dog will lay on me to provide pressure and comfort as I sleep.

My dog has changed my life. My meltdowns were happening every day and were severe. They affected my whole family and also my relationship with my family, my independence and my confidence. My dog has reduced the intensity and frequency of my meltdowns so much that they are now a rare occurrence! His support helps to keep me calm and prevent the initial rise in anxiety and sensory overload. He almost always intervenes before I reach a meltdown."