Animal Assisted Therapy Research

Dogs, cats and other animals may improve social skills of children with autism

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Dogs and other pets play an important role in individuals’ social lives, and they can act as catalysts for social interaction, previous research has shown. Although much media attention has focused on how dogs can improve the social skills of children with autism, a University of Missouri researcher recently found that children with autism have stronger social skills when any kind of pet lived in the home.

“When I compared the social skills of children with autism who lived with dogs to those who did not, the children with dogs appeared to have greater social skills,” said Gretchen Carlisle, research fellow at the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction (ReCHAI) in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine. “More significantly, however, the data revealed that children with any kind of pet in the home reported being more likely to engage in behaviors such as introducing themselves, asking for information or responding to other people’s questions. These kinds of social skills typically are difficult for kids with autism, but this study showed children’s assertiveness was greater if they lived with a pet.”

Pets often serve as “social lubricants,” Carlisle said. When pets are present in social settings or a classroom, children talk and engage more with one another. This effect also seems to apply to children with autism and could account for their increased assertiveness when the children are living in a home with pets, Carlisle said.

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Children with autism can benefit from having a specially-trained dog — and the Government should ensure that more resources go into providing them, according to the author of a new medical study.

Researchers at UCC say they have proven that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can benefit from having a dog, particularly at a young age.

Lead researcher, Dr Louise Burgoyne of UCC’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, said there was “huge merit” in the State providing more resources to provide the specially-trained dogs.

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Many families face the decision of whether to get a dog. For families of children with autism, the decision can be even more challenging. Now, a University of Missouri researcher has studied dog ownership decisions in families of children with autism and found, regardless of whether they owned dogs, the parents reported the benefits of dog ownership included companionship, stress relief and opportunities for their children to learn responsibility.

"Children with spectrum disorders often struggle with interacting with others, which can make it difficult for them to form friendships," said Gretchen Carlisle, a research fellow at the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction (ReCHAI) in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine. "Children with autism may especially benefit from interacting with , which can provide unconditional, nonjudgmental love and companionship to the children."

 

Carlisle interviewed 70of children with autism. Nearly two-thirds of the parents in the study owned dogs, and of those parents, 94 percent reported their children with autism were bonded to their dogs. Even in families without dogs, 70 percent of parents said their children with autism liked dogs. Many dog-owning parents said they specifically chose to get dogs because of the perceived benefits to their children with autism, Carlisle said....

More & source: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-04-dog-ownership-benefits-families-children.html

 

 

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Research: Jenny

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This section is created and supported by Jenny Lockwood. Jenny is our research assistant. She has a first from Edinburgh and a Masters in Education Psychology at UT Austin.

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