MORE workshops will be held to help autistic children bond with family dogs, thanks to a grant from the Oxfordshire Freemasons.

Banbury-based Charity Dogs for Good will spend the £60,000 grant on running its Family Dog Workshops for the next three years.

Some 40 families from across Oxfordshire are set to benefit from the workshops, which give advice and support to help families with a child with autism get the most out of their relationship with their family dog.

A well-trained dog is believed to assist each child in several ways.

The dog can provide companionship and be a calming influence on an autistic child, helping to reduce the anxiety which comes with the condition.

The children can also develop their motor skills by walking and grooming the dog and playing games.

It is also thought that the dog can make the child feel safer, bond better with family members and learn essential life skills such as personal hygiene from understanding how important it is to groom their dog.

Alison Pearce, who lives in Oxford and whose daughter benefitted from the service, said: “At the first workshop, I was amazed by the many ways in which a pet dog could be trained to help an autistic child and how this would benefit my daughter.

"I sat there thinking ‘this could be life-changing.’

"It was also beneficial to meet and talk to other parents of children with autism.

"I remember thinking ‘I’m not alone, these people really understand.’"

The series of three, one-day workshops use a combination of practical demonstrations, discussions, hands-on learning and course hand-outs to demonstrate the ways in which a dog can impact on the behaviour and development of autistic children.

Following on from the workshops, attendees can access further support by telephone and email as well as special advanced workshops for those who require it.

Peter Gorbing, chief executive at Dogs for Good, said: “This generous grant from the Oxfordshire Freemasons will help us to make a life-changing difference to children with autism, and their families.

"The workshops are always over-subscribed, so it’s fantastic to have secured this funding over the next three years.”

Since the workshops were introduced at Dogs for Good’s Banbury centre, nearly 1,000 families have attended, with 75 per cent now working with a family dog.

Andrew Keech, from the Oxfordshire Freemasons, said: "I’m very pleased we’re able to help Dogs for Good, which does such wonderful work with autistic children and their families.

"Thanks to them, many hundreds of people have seen a huge improvement in their quality of life.”