Animal Assisted Canine Therapy in Behaviour Support and Counselling in Australia: NDIS Funded Dog Assisted Reviews in Autism and Intellectual Disability

Sir Patrick, aka Paddy Cake, at work teaching two legged to be more like four legged i.e., more kind, thoughtful, patient, and compassionate.

This post attaches a recent paper written to evaluate Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT), particularly with trained therapy dogs in cases of Autism, Intellectual Disability, and in early, middle, and late childhood intervention contexts. However the paper is equally applicable to adult contexts where a range of functional disabilities and dog assisted therapy are being considered.

The work was undertaken to provide background information by analysis of the literature from senior behaviour support and clinical and professional analysis. We were interested in examining international contexts in light of emerging Australian trends in Autism and ID support systems, especially in light of the NDIS Act 2013 and Behaviour Support Rules 2018. The results from our analysis suggested a rather solid account of efficacy and effectiveness as reflected in the international literature.

We have been able to apply this information in senior qualified case-based behaviour support reviews leading to positive funding outcomes. While this work is extensive, and given the newness of these efforts in Australia, we are humbled and proud to say that down to the dedication of AAT specialists and parents and family who seek to improve the quality of life of their participants, the work we have done so far likely sets a precedent for AAT and canine assisted therapy nationally.

Paper Title:

The Efficacy of Canine Assisted Therapy in Autism and Intellectual Disability Focused Behavioural Support in Australia: A Clinical Review of Literature for Case-Based Consideration



Page Count and Content:

14 Pages, with References


The purpose of this discussion paper is to capture our recent review of the clinical evidence that is based in the peer reviewed professional literature. This review is focused on behaviour therapy with children in disabilities, particularly with Autism and Intellectual Disability, and where the studies used trained assistance canine support. This paper does not discuss an individual case but rather provides an overview of the current clinical evidence that advocates canine-assisted behaviour support planning with Autism and Intellectual Disability. This paper can be used as a resource by parents, families, agencies, and by behaviour specialists, occupational therapists, and speech pathologists working in the disability space in Australia. In our role as a Senior Specialist Behaviour Lifestyle Health Counsellor Psychotherapist, we have applied this information to clinical analysis of cases under the NDIS Act 2013 and Behaviour Support Rules 2018 with successful funding outcomes. We found that the key is not only to offer assessment of need but also to provide evidence of utility and positive outcomes for the participant and within an inter-professional plan that maps how the assistance canine will be used by different therapists and environments; how the intervention differs and provides outcomes other therapies cannot; and with timelines and measurable outcomes during the duration of the intervention plan.

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