Working with dogs to improve the lives of people we support – August 2016
Style Acre is working collaboratively with charities Dogs for Good and Kingwood to provide therapy dogs to improve the lives of people we support.
Style Acre and Kingwood will work together to use therapy dogs to improve the lives of adults with learning disabilities and autism. Style Acre is a charity which enhances the lives of adults with learning disabilities and autism in creative and innovative ways. Style Acre provides day opportunities for 191 people, supported living for 86 people and work development opportunities and community involvement for adults with learning disabilities across Oxfordshire. Kingwood is a charity which provides specialist support to adults with autism in Oxfordshire and Berkshire. Kingwood provides direct support to over 100 adults and young people and provides short term assistance to a further 50 adults with Asperger Syndrome.
We will deliver a unique project bringing dogs into goal orientated weekly sessions with adults with autism: this is known as Animal Assisted Intervention (AAI). This project is needed to address the developmental needs of adults with autism and learning disabilities across Oxfordshire and Berkshire. People with autism and learning disabilities all have different daily challenges, we want to use animal assisted intervention to help the people we support develop new learning and coping strategies to help make life easier, more fulfilling and enjoyable. Through working with Kingwood, Style Acre is able to benefit from their prior knowledge and experiences of working with the dogs. Kingwood will benefit from the availability of Style Acre’s day service hubs for the project. We believe that by working together we can achieve the best outcomes for the people we support and that by evaluating our work, we will gather valuable information about the benefits that animal assisted intervention can offer to adults with autism and learning disabilities. The overall aim of this project is to help the people we support develop new skills and behaviours.
This project will enable an instructor and dogs to work four days a week with Kingwood and Style Acre beneficiaries. The use of Style Acre hubs will allow us to provide a service to more clients as instructor travelling time can be minimised. There will also be associated opportunities for the people we support at our hubs, for instance taking responsibility to prepare room for dog’s arrival. Kingwood and Style Acre will work together to run a referrals process. Service managers will refer people who have a specific personal target that may be achieved through animal assisted intervention – they will then help the individual participants to identify specific goals or outcomes that should be achieved. This also enables us to manage the participant’s expectations and develop an exit strategy for when the goals have been reached. In most cases the sessions will be one on one, with the person supported and the dog handler. The person supported will always have their usual support worker present. We will also trial small group sessions of 3 or 4 people as this may work well with adults with mild learning disabilities and would enable more people to benefit from the sessions. Placements may last between six weeks and two years. It will depend on the individual, their needs and goals. The dog handler is able to deliver two or three sessions per day depending on logistics. Two dogs will be used to enable us to best match dogs with the task at hand and to ensure appropriate rest breaks for the dog and handler. Sessions usually last an hour.
People with learning disabilities and autism face many daily challenges. This dog assisted intervention will help participants to develop coping and learning strategies and to achieve individual goals which will have a lasting impact on their ability to live their lives to the full. It will help them to do all the things most people take for granted – whether that be to cross the road safely, go to the shops, go to the doctor, take a walk or feel safe leaving the house.
Outcomes This project will develop personalised coping and learning strategies using dog assisted intervention to tackle a diverse range of issues such as:
|Road safety||Self motivation and building self confidence|
|Developing independent living skills at home||Addressing dog phobias – overcoming fear|
|Addressing anxiety and challenging behaviour||Self care and health education|
|Developing routines, particularly in times of transition||Group work – social interaction, turn taking and team work|
|Broadening and developing new interests||Social interaction|
|Animal care skills (ASDAN qualification)||Employment opportunities|
Style Acre runs a charity shop, book shop and tea room to provide work opportunities for the people they support. The animal care skills and dog walking experience that our beneficiaries will gain through this project could lead to a dog care social enterprise in the future. There is potential to link with Style Acre’s existing walking group and to develop work experience roles caring for the dogs whilst they are at our hubs. The project will enable us to deliver around 10 training sessions per week, with around 15 people participating per week. Numbers will vary depending on the individuals involved and the length of their placement. We are aiming for 100 people to benefit from this project over three years.
We aim to begin this project in January 2017 and are currently seeking funds of £35,000 per year to cover the cost of this three year project. If you can help us reach this target, please contact our Philippa Stannard, Head of Fundraising.