The Dogs Trust Rehoming Centre in Honiley, Kenilworth in Warwickshire has been holding workshops for families with children who have been diagnosed with autism.
The PAWS project (Parents Autism Workshops and Support), has been created to show how pet dogs can be trained to encourage and improve development for autistic children.
The dogs can cheer up an upset or distraught child, interrupt unwanted behaviour and can help teach children responsibility if they are given the opportunity to help take care of the dog.
PAWS course leader Katie Bristow-Wade said: “We believe (the project) will bring a wealth of new opportunities and benefits to families that face huge challenges every day.
“We urge any family with a child affected by autism who either already has a pet dog, or is considering bringing a dog into the family, to come along to the workshops and find out more.
“With the right support, pet dogs have the potential to transform the lives of families affected by autism. PAWS workshops identify ways a pet dog can be trained to ease the strain of bringing up a child with autism.”
11-year-old Josh Walker, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, has already benefited from the scheme. His mum Suzanne said: “Josh finds it difficult to communicate at times and can get very stressed where he’ll scream and shout.
“His condition makes it difficult to do anything outside of normal routine, particularly when getting ready for school as Josh doesn’t like going to school.”
The PAWS service provided Miri, a four-month-old Jack Russell for Josh and his family.
Suzanne added: “Miri and Josh seemed to have an instant bond and this has continued to grow.
“Miri has provided Josh with a sense of responsibility and now she needs feeding, he’ll be down in a flash in the mornings.”
Karen Davies, whose 11-year-old daughter Shannon is autistic, has praised the project: “Through training Treacle we have managed to reduce the affects of the challenges facing Shannon. PAWS has been a helpful step to controlling the affects of her condition.”
The PAWS project began in 2010 and has already helped 200 UK families.