Organisation working with autistic adults gets a helping paw from Kennel Club Charitable Trust

A charitable organisation based in Reading has started a new dog therapy programme to improve the quality of their clients’ lives, supported by funding received from the Kennel Club Charitable Trust.

Providing extensive support for people with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, and offering therapy and educational programmes that help their clients to live the life they choose, Autism at Kingswood is now also providing animal assisted therapy in partnership with the charity Dogs for Good, exploring the ways that dogs can help people with a wide range of disabilities.

Fleck and his handler Sarah Tosh-Robb, help Autism at Kingswood’s clients with a range of day-to-day challenges, including navigating road safety and developing social skills.

Each client participating in the programme has an individual set of objectives they want to achieve with Fleck’s help. Tackling those issues and progressing their goals with Fleck has enabled Kingwood clients to feel more confident and safer in their everyday life, and to live a more independent life in connection with the wider community.

JB is one client who has been working with Fleck, learning how to be safe around roads and prevent accidents. Through regular walks with Fleck, JB developed his concentration and focus, stopping at the side of the road and walking together with the group. Fleck, Sarah and the team at Kingwood are now looking into helping JB feel more comfortable during bus travel.

JG is another client who worked with Fleck with specific goals, focusing on social patience and sharing. Thanks to sessions with Fleck, JG is now calmer and understands that other people take turns in having Fleck’s attention. At the beginning of the programme, JG didn’t want to share treats with Fleck but now loves feeding him, recognising the importance of sharing.

Like other therapy programmes, Fleck and Sarah’s work with clients at Kingwood was made difficult by coronavirus, but they found ways to stay connected and continue their work virtually. Their support was even more important during the pandemic, which was a period of heightened anxiety for some people with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome.

Philippa Stannard, head of fundraising and communications at Autism at Kingwood said: “We are very grateful for the support we’ve had from the Kennel Club Charitable Trust which enabled us to offer life-changing support for our clients and help them tackle important issues. Thanks to Fleck and Sarah’s work, our clients are safer, more confident and feel more able to interact with the community. We are really impressed with what a difference dogs can make for our clients and we are now looking into extending the programme to support others.”

Sarah, the community dog handler at Dogs for Good who works with Fleck said: “I have been working with Autism at Kingwood to help adults with autism achieve individual goals and develop life skills to improve their independence and quality of life, using a variety of techniques.

“By working as a team with the community dogs, I love to see how we can make such a difference to the lives of the clients and the joy on their faces when we arrive for each session. However small or large the achievements may be for the client; it always amazes me that the positive impact it may have on their lives can be huge!”

Bill King, Chairman of the Kennel Club Charitable Trust commented: “We are proud to be supporting this important project at Autism at Kingwood. While helping others to gain more independence and safety in their life, this project also highlights the amazing and versatile skillset of dogs and how they can help us.

“The Kennel Club Charitable Trust supports a whole range of dedicated projects and organisations and established an Emergency Relief Fund in April to provide special support for organisations struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic.”

There is more information about funding from the Kennel Club Charitable Trust and how to apply available at: www.thekennelclub.org.uk/kcct.