Project information

PAWS (Parents Autism Workshops and Support)

PAWS (Parents Autism Workshops and Support) is a national outreach service offering help and support to the parents of children with autism. Skilled dog trainers run a series of tailored workshops which educate parents about the benefits to their autistic child's social and cognitive development.

This is an on-going project

Charity information: Dogs for Good

Dogs for Good logo
  • Need


    Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person relates and communicates to other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them.

    Children with autism face daily challenges with the simplest of tasks such as brushing their teeth or getting dressed, resulting in anxiety and confusion for the child and distress for the parent.

    PAWS offers a tangible, effective and economical service which really can transform the lives of all involved.


    PAWS was designed to help parents with a child with autism to source and train their own pet dog for the benefit of their child and their family unit as a whole.

    PAWS provides parents with practical support and information through the provision of workshops, educational materials, website pages and a telephone advice line. Parents attend a series of three workshops as an initial overview into owning and utilising a pet dog for a child with autism.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    Offer a comprehensive support service to parents of children with autism who wish to get a pet dog.


    » To run 25 workshop series annually, each to be attended by up to ten sets of parents.
    » To offer an effective aftercare package through the provision of training events and access to PAWS staff via telephone and email.
    » To develop an effective peer support network by establishing an online community for parents.
    » To replicate the service in other countries (we have already established a sister service in The Netherlands).

    What success will look like

    Success will be running 25 workshop series annually and ensuring that attendees have sufficient information to utilise a pet dog for their child's social and cognitive development.

  • Impact


    The long term impact of the service will include numerous benefits for the child and their wider family unit. There will also be a more comprehensive understanding of the benefits of pet dogs to children with autism

    The service is subject to a rigorous research programme, to evaluate its value and effectiveness. Findings from this study (completion 2013) will be widely disseminated to all interested parties. Funding for the research study has been fully secured through the Big Lottery Fund.


    It is important that the PAWS service meets demand and that its benefits and availability are known and understood by potential beneficiaries. There is a risk that information about the service is not disseminated in the correct places. We have addressed this by establishing close links with many of the autism signposting organisations such as the National Autistic Society. We are also constantly sourcing new locations around the UK to run workshops.


    Over the last two years, we have received in excess of 50 donations from Charitable Trusts and Foundations, companies and individuals towards the service. All donors are regularly updated on the progress made within the project and are invited to donor update events and sample workshops.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £132,505

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £86,066 Staffing/support All staffing costs
      £11,980 Office costs Establishment and office costs
      £24,284 Workshop costs Demo dog welfare costs, educational materials, venue costs and travel costs
      £10,175 Marketing/Comms Website development, phones and marketing

    Current Funding / Pledges

    Source Amount
    Response Systems International Trust £50,000 Guaranteed
  • Background


    The workshops are run across the United Kingdom from Scotland to Northern Ireland and down to the southern parts of England. The concept is also being developed by other assistance charities worldwide with a successful series already having taken place in The Netherlands.


    The PAWS service will offer multiple benefits to the parents and siblings of the child with autism as well as the child themselves. Children should be aged between 3 and 16 years of age for their parents to be eligible for the workshops.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    .Dogs for the Disabled is an innovate and forward-thinking charity which, for 25 years, has trained hundreds of assistance dogs to help improve the lives of people with disabilities.

    In 2008, the charity launched a pilot project to train bespoke assistance dogs for children with autism, to help them mentally and phsyically with the challenges of daily life. Four years on, 35 dogs have been trained through this project and have positively changed the lives of their new owners.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Katie Bristow-Wade

    PAWS Project Team Leader

    Amy Davies

    PAWS Instructor


One series of workshops

I urge any family in a similar situation to consider PAWS as a way of managing the challenges faced as a result of their child’s autism.”

Tessa Gilling