Page last updated at 07:33 GMT, Monday, 23 February 2009

Dogs to help children with autism

Autism support dog
Ollie is being supported by a specially trained dog

A charity based in Banbury is running a scheme to use dogs to support children with autism.

The dogs provide practical help to the children which it is hoped will help build their confidence to cope with the outside world.

The pilot project has been set up by Dogs for the Disabled, along with the National Autistic Society.

It is claimed the scheme so far has seen "encouraging results" and hopes to expand in the future.

Helen McCain, Director of Training and Development at Dogs for the Disabled, said: "It allows the family and the child to go out and participate in normal family activities like shopping or going to the park.

"One of the benefits is the dog enables the child to be calmer and therefore engage in the environment that they are visiting."

To help a child cope, the dogs are trained to walk in front of the parent, with the child by its side.

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