What is Connor's situation?
Connor is 7 years old and has autism spectrum disorder (ASD). He lives with his parents. Connor and his parents have a goal for him to go to school full time, and to manage his emotions when he becomes overwhelmed. He becomes overwhelmed with changes in routine and different environments during the school day. This includes getting to and from school and to different classes. Connor can only attend school for 3 hours a day. Connor and his parents know the benefits that school gives him. He needs help to manage his emotions so he can go to school full time.
Connor wants an assistance animal that’s trained to behave in a way that calms him down so he can join in more at school.
Connor has been working with a multidisciplinary team for the past year. A multidisciplinary team is a group of different allied health professionals who work together to help you reach your goals. They might include occupational therapists, psychologists or speech therapists.
Connor, his parents and psychologist look at other supports that might meet his goals and support needs. They do this before asking for an assistance animal. This means they look at how other lower cost supports might help manage Connor’s ASD. This includes a therapy program or behaviour support plan.
What information and evidence do we need to make our decision?
The type of information and evidence we look at to make our decision includes:
- information we already know about Connor
- evidence of Connor’s disability and how it impacts his daily life
- new information we’re given
- assessments and reports
- information from Connor’s school
- the assistance animal assessment template (DOCX 65KB) filled out by Connor’s psychologist, occupational therapist and his assistance animal provider.
What information and evidence did we get?
The information and evidence we got tells us:
- Connor and his parents have a goal for him to go to school full time and to manage his emotions when he becomes overwhelmed
- Connor had a sensory assessment 6 months ago
- since Connor’s assessment the occupational therapist has worked with him to help reduce his feelings of being overwhelmed at school
- the tasks the assistance animal will do to help Connor attend school full time, for example the assistance animal will stay between him and other students to give him space, start nudging to distract him, and might also put its paw on him so he feels calm
- how the assistance animal knows when to help Connor
- that children of Connor’s age would generally need some adult help to manage their emotions
- that Connor needs more support than his parents, teachers and other school staff can manage
- that Connor’s school has the capacity to provide intervention recommended by his allied health professionals
- that due to time pressures Connor’s family need some support to do the intervention recommended by his allied health professionals
- at times Connor can hit and bite other people when he feels overwhelmed
- a trial wasn’t done, so no trial outcomes were given
- the school said it wouldn’t give permission for an assistance animal to be on site because they were concerned about risks to other students and school staff and did not have any staff who could be its primary handler during school hours
- Connor’s psychologist and occupational therapist have put him on a behaviour support plan to help manage his behaviours of concern. A behaviour support plan is likely to help the people that interact with Connor at home and school to understand his triggers. It will also help to them to notice early warning signs before he gets overwhelmed and consistently support Connor in those places.
What decision did we make and why?
Based on Connor’s situation we decided not to fund an assistance animal as it didn’t meet all of the NDIS funding criteria. Our main reasons are explained below.
- The school didn’t agree to having the dog on site so it wouldn’t have been able to help Connor.
- The assistance animal wasn’t considered effective and beneficial for Connor, because there was no evidence that having the animal would mean Connor went to school more often.
- The assistance animal is likely to cause harm to Connor or pose a risk to others because evidence showed that Connor can at times hit and bite others when he feels overwhelmed. There was a noted risk to the animal’s welfare from this behaviour. There was also a risk to Connor and others, as the dog may feel threatened by this behaviour.