Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland (AADI) are this month celebrating their accreditation with Assistance Dogs International for their exceptional standards and training of their Autism Assistance Dogs for children with autism across Ireland. This award will place AADI as the first and only Autism Assistance Dog Programme in Ireland to be accredited to these international standards and comes at a time when statistics highlight that 1 in every 65 children in Ireland have a diagnosis of this invisible disability.
Not all organisations that undergo this rigorous assessment process are granted accreditation. Status as an accredited charity means that AADI has met the internationally recognised standards for excellence in provision of task specific dog training, welfare and education and is an achievement that the team at the charity want all of their donors, corporate partners and volunteers to be proud of too.
Speaking of the success, CEO, Nuala Geraghty explains, “We believe that the children with autism and families that we work to support and provide our services to deserve the very best. We train our assistance dogs over a two year period to mitigate the difficulties that the child is experiencing because of autism, such as chronic anxiety, lack of danger awareness and inability to go to public places because of sensory overload. Our autism assistance dogs give back life to the child and their family, helping children with autism to reach their potential and return to being part of their communities, where they belong.
Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland invests two years and over 9,100 hours of training in each dog to get our dogs to the stage where they will be the lifeline for a child and family affected by autism.
Our success as the first and only Autism Assistance Dog Programme in Ireland to be accredited with ADI helps to affirm the fact that the services that we provide are of exceptional standard and have an impact on children across Ireland that is lasting a lifetime. Without doubt, going through the accreditation process was an intense time, but it propelled us to take stock and acknowledge how determined we are to get more autism assistance dogs to children with autism who urgently need them.
It is a constant reminder that our responsibility is to continuously improve the worlds of children with autism and their families through the training that we invest in our dogs. To say that we are proud of the service that we provide and the accolade that we have received from Assistance Dogs International is probably an understatement. We are literally over the moon with this achievement. The news comes as we mark International Assistance Dog Week, 5 – 11 August 2018 and the incredible changes that our dogs bring to the lives of children with autism and their families.”
The standards to which Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland train their dogs can be clearly seen in the success stories that they have with families such as the O’ Briens from County Wicklow. AADI placed Zara with Mia this year. Lisa O’Brien, Mia’s mum, states “We can see the support that Zara brings Mia already, how Zara looks out for and minds Mia. Zara gives independence to us as a family. Before we received Zara from Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland, you would get all sorts of looks and whispering, where people would gather their thoughts and come up with their own diagnosis of Mia. Mia’s brothers and sister would sense this straight away and lip read every conversation around them. It was very upsetting for them. Now that people can see Mia attached with Zara, there is instant acceptance of my daughter.
Mia has no awareness of the risk that strangers pose and in the past she would hug strangers. As parents this was very worrying. Mia is very trusting, but this means that she is vulnerable. Now, with Zara, Mia is more focused and by being attached with her assistance dog, she is safe and doesn’t go up to strangers. Zara gives us a new hope”.
It takes 2 years and costs €22,000 to train AADI Dogs to Assistance Dogs International Standards. The charity receives no government funding and is reliant on the support of individuals and companies across Ireland. Most importantly, all of the charity's assistance dogs are provided to families completely free of charge and are only placed with the family when the dog is fully qualified to make a life lasting impact.
If you would like to change the world of a child with autism on our waiting list, you can be their lifeline by sponsoring one of our autism assistance puppies in training for as little as €3 a week. Click here to change a child's world