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autism Benefits profound able to throw the ball, so they were developing motor skills that way.” Dr Howell said several parents reported an overall improved family The benefits of autism assistance dogs can be ‘profound’, according to dog behaviour expert D Dr Tiffani Howell. been expecting. “People reported that everything changed. It wasn’t that the dog was just helping the child with autism, it was that everyone in the house suddenly calmed down, they were r Howell is a Research Fellow “Another interesting aspect getting along better, sleeping for at La Trobe University who we found is that they were the first time, including through the specialises in dog behaviour, gaining skills, things like verbal night for the first time in years, and of skills to give commands. course that’s going to reduce stress dog cognition and human-animal relationships. She was a key author “We had one parent who talked of a 2016 report which the National about how their child with autism was Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) so motivated with the dog, that they changes, particularly in the used to shape its guidance document became verbal, they started speaking consultations we were having with on assistance dogs for the National when they were non-verbal prior to the owner, they were reporting just Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). the dog coming into the house. So, massive changes in the quality of the we heard about some huge changes. whole family atmosphere.” The report, titled ‘Reviewing levels,” she said. “These were really impressive Assistance Animal Effectiveness’, was “There were also things like produced for the NDIA in September empathy and responsibility, so some negative aspects reported 2016, summarising benefits and cost- parents were telling children ‘this during the research, mostly around effectiveness of assistance animals. is your dog’, so giving them that public access issues and unwanted Dr Howell said the research sense of control over something, social interactions. Dr Howell said there were also team found one of the biggest in a life where they might feel out Many people reported there benefits for people with autism of control, and that responsibility was poor public knowledge that was a reduction in anxiety. for looking after another living assistance dogs are legally allowed being was something parents to go wherever the owner goes, and said was very important. people still faced issues when trying “For some reason, and this is an interesting research topic for us, for some reason the dog just makes them 28 dynamic, a huge benefit many hadn’t “There were also benefits in motor feel calmer, we don’t know why, and skills, because by learning to play that’s something I want to understand with the dog, so saying if you want to better as a researcher,” she said. throw the ball, you have to actually be autism to enter a café or take a taxi with their assistance dog. Similarly, social interactions sometimes were not always positive