Children with autism encounter an unfamiliar pet: Application of the Strange Animal Situation test
ABSTRACT Autistic disorders are characterized by deficits in social interactions and communication, strong aversion or non-response to social stimuli. However, these children are often reported to develop strong bonds with companion animals. We hypothesized that children with autism (CAD) would present different behavioural profiles when encountering an unfamiliar animal in a Strange Animal Situation close-to-life test. Twenty seven CAD were compared to 59 children with typical development (CTD). Our results. revealed similarities in the behaviour of both groups of children as well as patterns specific to the CAD (e.g. attracted by humans). Different profiles emerged depending on everyday living conditions. This study constitutes, to our knowledge, the first clear description of how children with autism react when encountering an unfamiliar animal and one of the first direct comparisons between CAD and CTD using a naturalistic but standardized setting.