Pawtonomy CIC

Empowering members of the autistic community to train their own autism support or assistance dog

Would you like to find out more?

Support dog or assistance dog?

What is Pawtonomy CIC?

Pawtonomy CIC is a collaborative partnership run by Lorraine Benham (IMDT) and Dr Julia Leatherland (PhD). Together, we offer the opportunity for members of the autistic community to owner-train their own autism support or assistance dog.

We recognise that there are many people who think they are autistic, who are facing long waiting times before they are seen for assessment and diagnosis. In addition, we know there are some for whom self-identification as autistic is enough and who do not wish to pursue a formal diagnosis. However, the support needs of these individuals are relevant, whatever stage of the diagnostic journey they are at. Therefore, we welcome people who self-identify as autistic, or who are waiting to be assessed, as well as those who have a formal (medical) diagnosis, to join Pawtonomy and train their dog to provide them with emotional and/or physical support.

Lorraine Benham

Lorraine Benham (IMDT)

Head Trainer and Training Manager

I am a professional motivation and reward-based dog trainer, with a special interest in training dogs to work in partnership with their owners for mutual benefit. In addition to this, I have professional experience of autism, having worked for 16 years in a role that involved supporting autistic adults to increase their independence, and am the mother of two autistic sons. Julia and I met in 2019 and we soon discovered our shared passion for enabling members of the autistic community to benefit from the empowering impact of being partnered with an assistance dog. With so few organisations able to make this a reality for many of those who desire it, we made the decision to set up our own; and so Pawtonomy CIC was born.

Julia Leatherland

Julia Leatherland (PhD)

Autism Support and Education Lead

I am an autistic parent of five autistic children with a special interest in autism and a love of dog training. I am passionate about finding ways to empower autistic people to lead rich and fulfilling lives through the provision of enabling environments. My professional, academic, and personal journey through the world of autism led me to Lorraine and the development of Pawtonomy CIC. Our organisation has been created to be of benefit to the autistic community - a community I am part of and committed to supporting.

I look forward to meeting you and your dog, and to working with you in a way that will meet your needs and enable you to achieve success with your dog through our training programme. Currently, my youngest dog, Alfie, is progressing through the training programme. Hopefully, he will reach the standard necessary to qualify as my assistance dog and support me in those areas of my life that I find difficult.

How we work together

Julia and Lorraine work in partnership and are committed to providing person-centred support that recognises and harnesses your strengths and skills, whilst respecting those areas in which you experience more difficulty. Lorraine’s skillset and experience make her perfectly placed to carry out our dog assessments and to take overall responsibility for the design and delivery of the Pawtonomy Training Programme.

Taking a solution-focused approach, Julia uses her understanding of the potential impact of certain environments and situations on autistic wellbeing to help recognise areas where training might cause difficulties for individuals with particular sensory and learning preferences and needs.

Together, using information provided by each of our members following their initial assessment, we formulate bespoke training plans for individual training teams, designed to mitigate difficulty and provide the best chance of success.

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Pawtonomy CIC

Company number:
13342101

Company type:
Private Limited by Guarantee

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