A charity project has been shortlisted for a national award in recognition of its work showing how pet dogs can improve the lives of families affected by autism.
PAWS (Parents Autism Workshops and Support), which is run by Dogs for the Disabled, has been nominated in the Innovative Family Support category in The National Autistic Society’s (NAS) Autism Professionals Awards. The awards are the first of their kind to recognise and reward cross-discipline professionals who are leading the way in innovative autism practice.
PAWS was nominated by Sarah Evans, whose family participated in the project. She said: “Prior to PAWS we knew that pets could be therapeutic for children with autism, but weren’t aware what a huge difference they can make to family life.
“The PAWS workshops we attended in Banbury were fantastic and made a huge difference to my family’s life. My son Christian has made huge progress – he is much more sociable and willing to go out, his sleeping routine has improved and he now shows more affection towards me, his dad and others.
“I strongly urge anyone that has a child with autism to consider PAWS as an avenue for managing the challenges of raising a child with the condition.”
Katie Bristow-Wade, the Project Leader for PAWS said: “Although we only launched the project in July 2010, we’ve reached almost 400 families already and are delighted with the feedback we’ve received. This nomination is recognition of the expertise and hard work of everyone involved in the project and we’re honoured to have been shortlisted.”
Carol Povey, Director of the Centre for Autism at the NAS said: “We are launching these awards to highlight all the good work going on across the UK to improve the lives of people with autism.
“The calibre of entries has been outstanding and all the shortlisted entries have done remarkably well to stand out in their respective categories. The creative and innovative work of projects like PAWS gives us all the inspiration and motivation to keep multiplying our efforts and ensure that people with autism get to live the life they choose.”
PAWS is joined by two other nominees in the Innovative Family Support category, sponsored by Network Autism: the NAS Scotland Family Programme and Oxfordshire Autism Family Support, a service run by Children in Touch. The former supports families of young people with autism across Scotland while the latter provides information, support and services for children and families affected by the condition in Oxfordshire.
The winner will be revealed and presented with their award at the NAS’s annual Professional Conference on 5th March 2013 at The Majestic Hotel in Harrogate. Five other award winners will also receive national recognition for their outstanding achievements. The independent Judging Panel consists of leading experts in the field of autism from a variety of professional backgrounds across the UK.
There are six awards in total – two celebrating individual professional achievement and four recognising good practice by teams or organisations.
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Ryan O'Meara is group editor at Total Pet Publishing. A former professional dog trainer, Ryan is a frequent commentator in the media on a wide variety of canine issues including dog attacks, animal welfare and dog behaviour.