Article

The Social Skills and Attachment to Dogs of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Abstract

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have deficits in social skills, and interaction with service dogs has been associated with increased social skills for children with ASD. In this telephone survey of 70 parents of children with ASD, children owning dogs had greater Mean scores for social skills, using the Social Skills Improvement System Rating Scale, while those with some type of pet (not excluding dogs) had significantly greater skills for subscale item "assertion". Parents described their children as attached to their dogs. Children owning dogs completed the Companion Animal Bonding Scale, and reported strong bonding with dogs. These findings suggest children with ASD may bond with their dogs, and pet ownership may be associated with increased social skills.

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... Sample sizes of the studies ranged from 7 to 338 individuals, with most studies (n = 11) having a sample size of 75 or fewer participants. Eight studies exclusively studied dogs (Burrows, Adams, & Spiers, 2008;Burgoyne et al., 2014;Smyth & Slevin, 2010;Wright et al., 2016;Viau et al., 2010;Wright et al., 2015;Carlisle, 2014;Harwood, Kaczmarek, & Drake, 2019), four studies examined any identified companion animal (Carlisle et al., 2018;Byström & Lundqvist Persson, 2015;Ward, Arola, Bohnert, & Lieb, 2017;Grandgeorge et al., 2012), and one study exclusively studied cats (Hart et al., 2018). No study reflected time of animal ownership. ...
... Four of the studies included specific information about utilizing DSM IV criteria for a diagnosis of ASD (Grandgeorge et al., 2012;Carlisle, 2014;Ward et al., 2017;Wright et al., 2015). One study conducted in Ireland utilized the Irish Health Services Executive, which utilizes the Autism Diagnostic Interview and the Diagnostic Interview for Social Communication (Burgoyne et al., 2014). ...
... 18 19 and 4 19 5 or 10 or 15 or 20 (Wright et al., 2015). One study (Carlisle, 2014) identified the Companion Animal Bonding Scale, which is an eight-question Likert scale that aims to identify ways the respondent interacts with their animal; the scale includes items such as cleaning up, traveling with, holding or petting, sleeping near, and responsible for care of the animal (Poresky et al., 1987). This study asked the children with ASD to complete this survey; however, this tool has not been validated with the ASD population. ...
Article
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Animal-assisted interventions are increasingly used for children with ASD to promote inclusion and quality of life but are not accessible to many families. Companion animals may provide similar benefit but have not been well-investigated within this population. This scoping review presents the state of research regarding natural-based animal exposure to children and adolescents with ASD. Thirteen studies met the criteria for inclusion within this review. The results found primary themes to include social skills and relationships; emerging subthemes included safety and security, and mental health benefits related to social skills. The research was primarily exploratory and qualitative with flawed methodology. Recommendations include continued research with longitudinal designs, more rigorous methodologies, and use of objective measures to study the human-animal bond.
... Most studies gathered input solely from caregivers, even in instances where researchers did not assess caregivers' own wellbeing as a variable. One study included responses from individuals with ASD commensurate with their assessed ability to communicate (Carlisle, 2015). Seven of the ten studies employed caregiver interview by phone, in person, or by paper-based survey (Table 1). ...
... As selected studies originated from several countries, inconsistencies exist with these recently United States-standardized terms. Selected studies included trained service dogs (Burgoyne et al., 2014;Burrows, Adams, & Spiers, 2008;Smyth & Slevin, 2010;Viau et al., 2010), dogs acting primarily as companion animals (Carlisle, 2015;Grandgeorge et al., 2012;Wright et al., 2015a;Wright et al., 2015b), and dogs trained or certified for short-term therapeutic interactions (Fung & Leung, 2014;Prothmann, Ettrich, & Prothmann, 2009). ...
... Biases may play additional roles in the outcomes of included studies. Recall bias may have affected outcomes of three studies due to their single administration format that relied upon individuals' memories of behaviors and feelings prior to dogs' arrival (Burgoyne et al., 2014;Carlisle, 2015;Smyth & Slevin, 2010). Only one study employed a nonselective alternate intervention to control for possible placebo effect (Fung & Leung, 2014). ...
Article
Recreational therapists and other helping professionals have used animal-assisted therapies in the treatment of multiple psychological and physical issues. In the case of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), animals have helped with issues ranging from social interaction, to anxiety, to physical balance. While researchers have applied rigorous review methods (including systematic reviews and meta-analyses) to evaluating the efficacy of animal-assisted interventions with various populations, publications detailing such research into canine-specific assisted therapies with individuals with ASD are missing. This review applies Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines to evaluating empirical research on this application of animal-assisted therapy. Intensive searches of health care, psychological, educational, sociological, and other relevant resources yielded a limited number of studies meeting criteria for inclusion in this research. Those studies, however, provide a meaningful window into the efficacy of canine-assisted therapies used with individuals with ASD. A review of these studies that explores what the preponderance of the evidence suggests on this topic should benefit recreational therapy practitioners and their clients. Subscribe to TRJ
... There has been an emerging interest in the role animals might play in assisting children with ASD (Berry et al. 2013;Carlisle 2014Carlisle , 2015Kazdin 2017;Nimer and Lundahl 2007;Siewertsen et al. 2015). This interest has stemmed from the substantial body of research which has demonstrated that companion animals and humans can form a bond, and that this bond can facilitate psychological and physical wellbeing (e.g., Melson 2003;Triebenbacher 1998;Walsh 2009;Wright et al. 2015). ...
... The role and impact of a family companion canine living in a household with a child with ASD has also emerged as topic of investigation (Carlisle 2014(Carlisle , 2015Hall et al. 2016). While these few studies have demonstrated benefits of such arrangements (for example, companionship for the child with ASD and parents), further investigation exploring the complexities of the experience of living in an everyday context with a companion canine is warranted. ...
... For example, behavourial interventions are likely to lessen the negative impact of maladaptive and repetitive behaviours (Committee on Children With Disabilities 2001; Patterson et al. 2010). In addition, interventions targeting social skills have been shown to provide short-term benefits including improved success at school and more positive interactions with family and peers (Carlisle 2015;Matson et al. 2007). While evidence-based practice identifies some therapies targeting social skills as promising, none are universally effective (Reichow and Volkmar 2010). ...
Article
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This study examined the role of companion canines in the lives of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Interviews were conducted with 11 mothers of children with ASD (aged 5–12) who owned a canine companion in a multiple case study methodology. Transcript analysis revealed the emergence of five major themes, namely; love and companionship, perception of ownership, comfort and calming influence, canine’s ability to assist the child with understanding their world, and challenging experiences. The social and emotional benefits of companion canine ownership were observed in the majority of cases, particularly when the canine was the preferred companion animal and possessed an appropriate temperament suitable to cohabit with children who possess unique social and sensory needs.
... Deficits in social language and communication skills can limit and exclude a child with ASD from interacting with peers (Locke, Shih, Kretzmann, & Kasari, 2016;Qualls & Corbett, 2017). Interactions between therapy dogs and children with ASD have the potential to increase the children's social communication skills, social skills, and academic skills (Beetz, 2017;Carlisle, 2015;Fung, 2015). Little is known about how elementary teachers use therapy dogs to prompt social communication for children with ASD. ...
... Deficits in social language and communication skills can limit and exclude a child with ASD from interacting with peers (Locke et al., 2016;Qualls & Corbett, 2017). Interactions between therapy dogs and children with ASD have the potential to increase the children's social communication skills, social skills, and academic skills (Beetz, 2017;Carlisle, 2015;Fung, 2015). ...
... As stated above, children with ASD have deficits in social skills (Becker et al., 2017;Carlisle, 2015). There has been an influx of research in how using animals can increase social skills in children with ASD. ...
Research
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Many children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have difficulties with social communication. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore, describe, and improve the understanding of how elementary teachers use dog-based AAI programs in their classrooms to prompt social communication for students with ASD. More specifically, I aimed to gain a better understanding of how certified therapy dogs can affect social communication skills in children with ASD, and how the integration of a therapy dog AAI program can change the way in which children interact with their peers.
... This population also has a tendency to be over-or under-responsive to environmental stimulation and have difficulty generalizing skills learned in one setting to apply in another [4][5][6]. The nature of these unique diagnostic characteristics can jeopardize interactions between children with ASD and a pet living in the family home, which has been reported as a caregiver concern in this population [7,8]. Further, this population has been reported to "be rough with animals and treat them like inanimate objects", if they do not have specific interventions to teach appropriate care of animals [9]. ...
... Two summary scores were calculated and analyzed based on this questionnaire: Animal attachment score (AATS) and animal abuse score (AABS). AATS is the sum of questions 7,8,9,11,12, and 13, while AABS concerns items 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 22, 23, and 24. Two items (i.e., questions 13 and 22) had to be inversely coded before calculating the summary scores for each respective category. ...
Article
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The unique needs of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have implications for animal welfare. This nested pilot study examined the effects of a randomized trial of 10-week therapeutic horseback riding (THR) intervention versus a no-horse barn activity (BA) control group on children’s behaviors with family pets. Sixty-seven (THR n = 31; BA n = 36) participants with ASD (ages 6–16 years) with one or more family pet, were enrolled from a larger trial (n = 116) following their randomization to intervention groups, stratified by nonverbal intellectual ability. A consistent caregiver completed questionnaires about participants’ interactions with their household pets pre- and post-intervention. Caregivers of THR group participants reported significant improvements in participants’ caring actions with the family pet compared with the BA group (p = 0.013; effect size = 0.74). Engaging with horses during a standard THR intervention protocol may generalize to improving caring actions toward family pets in children and adolescents with ASD.
... The findings for Companion Animals mirror outcomes for other areas of Animal-Assisted Intervention, such as increased social skills and interactions (G. Carlisle, 2014; G. K. Carlisle, 2014; Grandgeorge, Tordjman, et al., 2012), more smiling (Grandgeorge, Tordjman, et al., 2012), and reduced stress (G. Carlisle, 2014). ...
... Carlisle, 2014; G. K. Carlisle, 2014; Grandgeorge, Tordjman, et al., 2012), more smiling (Grandgeorge, Tordjman, et al., 2012), and reduced stress (G. Carlisle, 2014). ...
... CAs may provide an opportunity for a relaxing social interaction for children with ASD (O'Haire et al. 2013;Harwood et al. 2019). Children with ASD living with family CAs have been found to have greater social skills for assertion, than those without CAs (Carlisle 2015). Another study found that introducing a new CA was associated with more child prosocial behaviors when compared with either a group of children with ASD having no CA or those having always lived with CAs (Grandgeorge et al. 2012). ...
... In another study, family cats were described by most parents as being affectionate with their child with ASD (Hart et al. 2018). Cats have been reported as the second most common CA in homes of children with ASD (Carlisle 2015). Cat ownership may be more helpful than a noisier dog due to hypersensitivities to sound that are common among children with ASD. ...
Article
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The study goal was to explore companion animal (CA) ownership in families of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), including parents’ beliefs about benefits and burdens of CAs, as well as parent stress. Participants (N = 764) completed online survey instruments anonymously. Findings revealed that parents with lower incomes perceived more benefits of CAs and their children were more strongly bonded with their CAs. Parents owning both a dog and cat perceived more benefits than those with only a dog or cat. Dog owners perceived more benefits than cat owners. Parents who perceived their CAs as providing more benefits had less stress. Provider implications are to consider recommending CAs to families of children with ASD for family benefits including lower parental stress.
... The ability of an animal to change the dynamic of the classroom to be more positive and engaging has been recognised and harnessed into the creation of specific animal-assisted programs, such as ones focusing on literacy (Jalongo 2005). Domestic dogs, with which children with ASD can form strong bonds (Carlisle 2015), have been successfully used in classrooms to support student learning through modelling trust and acceptance, and have been linked to an increase in positive attitudes towards other students, learning, and attendance (Anderson and Olson 2006;Friesen and Delisle 2007;Jalongo et al. 2004;Beetz 2013). ...
... In one study for example, typically developing peers were ten times more likely to interact with a fellow student who had a disability if they were in the company of a dog (Jalongo et al. 2004). Several evaluations of animal-assisted programs for children with ASD have reported increases in overall social and emotional behaviours such as verbal, gestural and visual communication towards the animal, teachers' and peers, and decreased self-absorption and self-stimulatory play (Kršková et al. 2010;O'Haire et al. 2013;Silva, et al. 2011;Carlisle 2015). Teachers regularly report positive changes in students when animals have been involved in the classroom, such as sustained emotional benefits to animal and human-directed empathy, increased social interactions, reduced aggressive behaviours and a decrease in hyperactivity, all of which are domains where students with ASD require support (Ascione and Weber 1996;Hergovich et. ...
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p>The introduction of animals into school classrooms has been posited as a beneficial intervention for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Whilst evidence that animal-assisted interventions or activities can positively influence classroom behaviour and learning outcomes is emerging, little is known about the experiences and attitudes of those who implement it. We presented a series of open and close-ended questions via an online survey to Australian school teachers working with students on the autistic spectrum. Whether teachers had experienced companion animals in the classroom or not, companion animals were believed to provide a means for improving social skills and engagement within the classroom, as well as decreasing stress, anxiety, and the occurrence of problematic behaviours. Yet, despite an overall positive attitude, and 68% having had animals or pets in their classroom, only 16% of respondents had experience with ‘formal’ animal-assisted interventions. Explanations for why both formal and informal animal-assisted interventions were either not being adopted, or was not currently being considered, included a lack of knowledge, lack of support and resources, reactions of the student in relation to allergies and behaviour, and issues relating to animal welfare. It was also acknowledged that the evidence-base for animal-assisted interventions for students with ASD is currently lacking, and that such interventions were not suitable for all students, or all classroom situations. Moving forward, it is important that the inclusion of companion animals and more formal based animal intervention programs in classrooms be adequately designed and evaluated, because implementing or promoting time consuming and financially costly strategies without the evidence is problematic.</p
... The most commonly assessed outcome was social interaction, evaluated in 79% (n = 22) of all included studies; all reported positive effects of AAI on social interaction. Changes Carlisle, 2015); socialization on the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales (VABS, n = 2; Ajzenman et al., 2013;Borgi, et al., 2015) and Pedagogical Analysis and Curriculum (PAC, n = 1; Steiner & Kertesz, 2015); social responsiveness on the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS, n = 2; Gabriels, et al., 2015;Holm, et al., 2014), social quality of life on the Pediatric Quality of Life (PedsQL, n = 1; Lanning, et al., 2014) and an investigator designed survey (n = 1; García-Gómez et al., 2014); as well as increased social interaction in qualitative reports (n = 2; Byström & Persson, 2015;Carlisle, 2014) and behavioral observation (n = 8; Fung & Leung, 2014;Fung, 2015;Grigore & Rusu, 2014;Funahashi et al., 2014;Holm et al., 2014;Salgueiro et al., 2012;Stevenson, Jarred, Hinchcliffe, & Roberts, 2015). Nuanced findings included one study showing changes in social communication and cognition, but not motivation and awareness on the SRS following AAI with horses compared to a barn activity control condition (Gabriels, Zhaoxing, et al., 2015); another showed increases in prosocial behaviors but not social interactions on the Autism Diagnostic Interview -Revised (ADI-R) following the introduction of a companion animal in the home (Grandgeorge et al., 2012a). ...
Article
Including animals in autism intervention is growing in both research and practice. A systematic literature review was conducted to collate and synthesize all empirical research on animal-assisted intervention (AAI) for autism published from 2012 to 2015. Findings from 28 included studies revealed that AAI programs generally include one animal per participant with a total contact time of approximately 10 hours over the course of 8 to 12 weeks. Research methodology is diverse and though limited in many cases, has improved over the last few years. The most commonly reported outcome was increased social interaction, which was unanimously significant across 22 studies. The need for further research is highlighted, calling for a focus on refining AAI techniques, identifying optimal circumstances for positive change as well as individuals who may not benefit, and independent replication of high quality studies to move AAI from an enrichment activity to an evidence-based practice for autism.
... Parents commonly reported that they believed pets provided specific benefits to their children with regard to alleviating common challenges related to ASD, and 26% of parents reported that the perceived benefits of animal contact on ASD symptoms factored into their decision to own a pet, particularly dogs. Surveys of individuals with ASD also indicates strong perceived attachments between themselves and their pets (Carlisle, 2015). ...
Article
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Theory of mind (ToM) is defined as the process of taking another’s perspective. Anthropomorphism can be seen as the extension of ToM to non-human entities. This review examines the literature concerning ToM and anthropomorphism in relation to individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), specifically addressing the questions of how and why those on the spectrum both show an increased interest for anthropomorphism and may even show improved ToM abilities when judging the mental states of anthropomorphic characters. This review highlights that while individuals with ASD traditionally show deficits on a wide range of ToM tests, such as recognizing facial emotions, such ToM deficits may be ameliorated if the stimuli presented is cartoon or animal-like rather than in human form. Individuals with ASD show a greater interest in anthropomorphic characters and process the features of these characters using methods typically reserved for human stimuli. Personal accounts of individuals with ASD also suggest they may identify more closely with animals than other humans. It is shown how the social motivations hypothesized to underlie the anthropomorphizing of non-human targets may lead those on the spectrum to seek social connections and therefore gain ToM experience and expertise amongst unlikely sources.
... The number of variables (n = 28) to participants (n = 374) ratio exceeded the 5 to 1 ratio (with a minimum number of participants, n > 150) which exceeds the standard recommendation for EFA [23,24]. Inspection of the Scree plot was used to determine the number of factors to extract, before Principal Component Analysis (PCA) was undertaken using a promax rotation, as we expected the My child is more likely to show empathy for another family member (e.g., instinctively feel sad or them, rather than being prompted or instructed by another) when he/she is with the dog 18 My child shows more use of imagination when engaging in play with other people when he/she is with the dog (e.g., will follow the lead of others and engage in the 'spirit' of the game) 19 My child is more willing to go out for a walk with other family member when he/she is with the dog 21 My child shows more independence within the home if he/she is with dog (e.g., would be more likely to off into another room away from family member if the dog is with him/her) Prefer not to say 2 (1%) 0 (0%) 2 (1%) 0 (0%) 2 (1%) 0 (0%) ...
Article
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Scientific literature exploring the value of assistance dogs to children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is rapidly emerging. However, there is comparably less literature reporting the effects of pet (as opposed to assistance) dogs to these children. In particular, there are no known validated scales which assess how children may alter their behaviours in the presence of the dog, to evaluate the efficacy of pet dogs to these families. Additionally, given the highly individualised nature of ASD it is likely that some children and families gain more benefits from dog ownership than others, yet no research has reported the effect of individual differences. This pilot study reports the development of a 28-item scale based on the perceived impact of a pet dog on a child with autism by parents (Lincoln Autism Pet Dog Impact Scale-LAPDIS). The scale is comprised of three mathematically derived factors: Adaptability, Social Skills and Conflict Management. We assessed how individual differences (aspects) may be associated with scores on these three factors. Family Aspects and Dog Aspects were not significantly associated with ratings on the three factors, but Child Aspects (including: contact with horses, child age, disability level and language abilities) were related to impact of the dog on all factors. Training Aspects were related to scores on Social Skills (formal training with children with ASD and dogs and attendance at PAWS workshops run by Dogs for Good). These results suggest that individual differences associated with the child and the training approach may be important considerations for a positive impact from dog ownership on families with children with ASD. Differences in family features and the dog may not be so important, but may be worthy of further investigations given the early stage of development in this field.
... These benefits are experienced by humans throughout our life cycle. Some human-companion animal relationships positively impact early childhood development (Carlisle, 2015;Endenburg & van Lith, 2011;Melson, Peet, & Sparks, 1991). Positive impacts of human-companion animal relationships have also been reported with elderly individuals. ...
... Canine faces, as opposed to other animals, were chosen for a number of reasons. In addition to matching two past studies that have used canine faces (Gross 2004;Whyte et al. 2016), research has shown that individuals with ASD typically have strong motivational preferences for familiar animals, such as cats and dogs (Carlisle 2014(Carlisle , 2015Celani 2002;O'Haire et al. 2013;Prothmann et al. 2009). Moreover, in the presence of familiar animals, children with ASD show increases in positive social behaviors, such as more social approach behaviors and greater displays of positive affect (e.g., Prothmann et al. 2009). ...
Article
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In children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), it is not clear whether emotion recognition impairments are unique to human faces. In the present study, children with ASD and neurotypical (NT) children were shown photographs of human and canine faces expressing angry, fear, happy, sad, or neutral expressions. Between-group differences showed that children with ASD were less accurate in their overall recognition of emotion on human faces than NT children, whereas the groups did not differ in their recognition of emotion on canine faces. In terms of within-group results, NT children did not differ in their recognition of emotions on human and canine faces, while children with ASD were more accurate in recognizing emotions on canine than on human faces. Although ASD symptomatology was not related to emotion recognition performance, some evidence was found that theory of mind and age were related to emotion recognition in all children.
... With increasing frequency, service dogs, a category of assistance dogs (Assistance Dogs International, 2018), are being placed with children with DDs and their families (Berry, Borgi, Francia, Alleva, & Cirulli, 2013;Butterly, Percy, & Ward, 2013;Carlisle, 2015). Trained service dogs can assist people with disabilities with functional performance tasks (open doors, retrieve items, assist with home and community mobility), increase social and community participation, and assist in psychological adjustments (increase self-esteem, well-being, and positive affect) (Winkle, Crowe, & Hendrix, 2011). ...
Article
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Background: With increasing frequency, service dogs are being placed with children with developmental disabilities (DDs). Occupational therapists and other professionals have advocated for the therapeutic use of service dog partnerships to facilitate greater independence and quality of life. There are no studies that examine service dog intervention with adolescents. Method: This study focused on the effects of partnerships between service dogs and three participant dyads, each including an adolescent with DDs and a parent. A single-subject, alternating treatment design was used to compare the effects of two conditions (service dog present or not present). The effects were examined for adolescents’ anxiety behaviors during transitions and during grocery store shopping, for social interactions during grocery store shopping, and for parents’ reported levels of stress. Results: Findings were that service dog partnerships reduced the presence of anxiety behaviors during transitions for one of the three adolescents; reduced the presence of anxiety behaviors during grocery store visits for two of the three adolescents; increased social interactions for all three of the participant dyads; and had no meaningful impact on self-reported parental stress level. Conclusion: For adolescents with DDs, professionals may want to consider service dog partnerships to decrease anxiety behaviors and increase social interactions in the community.
... Despite the limitations of most studies (e.g., small samples or other methodological weaknesses), their promising outcomes provide preliminary support for the use of AAI for some individuals with ASD. Benefits are not limited just to AAI as social improvements have been observed after the arrival of a pet in the home, especially when the children with ASD are at least 5 years old and the bond between the child and pet is strong (Carlisle, 2014;Grandgeorge et al., 2012). ...
Article
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Our survey of animal-assisted interventions (AAI) offered by French intervention facilities aimed to examine and describe the range of AAI for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) children. We invited 2,302 facilities to reply to an online questionnaire. The responses to our survey (n = 386) revealed that animals were used extensively as a complementary intervention. Most AAI sessions were in groups. Various animal species (especially horses and dogs) and facility staff members as well as external collaborators were involved. Numerous benefits (e.g., enhanced well-being, self-esteem, and socialization) were reported. Facilities face difficulties in connection with AAI including finances, staffing, and scheduling constraints. However, these problems do not affect staffs' motivation. This is the first large-scale survey giving a qualitative and quantitative picture of AAI practices in an entire country.
... We chose a fish store game because the current research suggests that people diagnosed with ASD show significantly fewer challenges in social skills and behaviors when accompanied by pets, including dogs, hamsters, and cats [17,18]. Furthermore, researchers have found that individuals with ASD show a strong interest in video games [19] and that video games can successfully teach social skills [20,21]. ...
Article
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We describe a virtual reality environment, Bob’s Fish Shop, which provides a system where users diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can practice social interactions in a safe and controlled environment. A case study is presented which suggests such an environment can provide the opportunity for users to build the skills necessary to carry out a conversation without the fear of negative social consequences present in the physical world. Through the repetition and analysis of these virtual interactions, users can improve social and conversational understanding.
... There is growing scientific and societal interest in the importance of assistance dogs, therapy 2 dogs (Sachs- Ericsson et al., 2002;Berry et al., 2013;Burgoyne et al., 2014;Audrestch et al., 3 2015) and pet dogs (Carlisle, 2015;Wright et al., 2015;Hall et al., 2016;Purewal et al., 2017; M A N U S C R I P T A C C E P T E D ACCEPTED MANUSCRIPT 4 al., 1999a,b), loud noises and unexpected events ( Beerda et al., 1998a;Blackwell et al., 34 2013), there appears to have been little attention paid to the risk factors associated with child 35 interactions. Additionally, methods to measure dog stress in controlled laboratory type 36 environments often focus on assessment of immediate behavioral or physiological responses; 37 whereas for dogs performing long-term therapeutic duties it may be more appropriate to 38 consider broader and enduring effects on quality of life. ...
Article
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There is growing interest in the value of assistance dogs, therapy dogs, and untrained pet dogs, for supporting children with specific needs. Research in this area focuses almost exclusively on the effect of dogs on child well-being and quality of life. The lack of research reporting the role of dog’s quality of life in this dynamic limits the development of best practice guidelines. Little attention has been paid to the risk from structured and unstructured exposures to children for dog’s quality of life to best protect the well-being of both parties and maximize the quality of interactions to enhance therapeutic effects. This systematic scoping review searched five databases to address the question “what is the risk from child-dog interactions to the quality of life of assistance, therapy and pet dogs?” The review identified that there is limited specific scientific investment in understanding the relationship between child-dog interactions and dog’s quality of life. Of the five relevant articles that were identified specifically addressing this issue, two looked at aspects relating to quality of life of dogs living in family homes, (1 = pet dogs, 1 = trained assistance dogs). The remaining three papers reported factors relevant to quality of life of trained dogs working in structured therapy sessions. Specific child-dog interactions may be important risk factors to consider in relation to dog’s quality of life, specifically interactions involving unprovoked child attention (e.g., rough contact), interactions and environmental predictability (e.g., meltdowns and recreation time), and child-initiated games (e.g., “dress up”). Identifying and monitoring the intensity and frequency of these interactions may be important for protecting dog’s quality of life in the therapeutic and home environment.
... There is growing awareness and interest in the value that pet dogs, with no formal training, can bring to human health and well-being, especially in relation to child development (1)(2)(3)(4). In particular, companionship associated with pet dog ownership may benefit children, and their families, affected by neuro-developmental disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) (5)(6)(7)(8)(9)(10)(11). Reports of these benefits may persuade families to acquire a pet dog with unrealistic expectations of the owner-dog relationship (12,13), and without informed consideration of the impact on the dog. ...
Article
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There has been little investment in exploring the impact of the child-dog relationship on the dog. Since child-dog interactions can pose potentially serious threats to a dog's physical and psychological health, as well as the wider satisfaction of the owner with their dog, we describe the development and validation of an owner-completed pet dog quality of life scale (Lincoln P-QOL), to enable professionals and families to monitor dog well-being and employ suitable interventions as required. Four-hundred and two dog-owners (194 lived with a neuro-typically developing child; 208 lived with a child with a neuro-developmental disorder) responded to an online survey. Respondents recorded whether they had observed their dog displaying any of the 22 behavioral responses which have been identified as being common in 11 child-dog interactions. These behavioral responses appeared to group into three categories of behaviors (i.e., behavioral constructs), representing Excitability, Calmness, and Fearfulness in the dog. To assess convergent validity of the quality of life scale respondents completed additional measures including, dog body condition score, health issues (incorporating psychological factors such as anxiety and physical proxies of well-being, such as skin irritations) and dog-owner relationship satisfaction. Excitability and Fearfulness constructs were associated with a negative impact on dog health and the owner-dog relationship. Calmness was associated with a positive impact on the dog-owner relationship. A range of interactions, including carefully expressed child-dog physical affection and spending quiet time together appear to had a beneficial impact on dog quality of life, whereas rough contact, child meltdowns, and grooming/bathing had a negative effect. We found little evidence to support a difference in the overall quality of life of dogs living with neuro-typically developing children compared to those with a neuro-developmental disorder. However, parents and practitioners need to be aware of the potential increased risk to dog well-being when meltdowns, grooming/bathing, and quiet time involve a child with a neuro-developmental disorder. This is the first validated scale for the assessment of dog well-being around children, additionally, the behavioral constructs identified may form the rational basis of a more general dog behavior/stress assessment tool in social situations.
... (Silva, Correia, Lima, Magalhães, & de Sousa, 2011), for instance, relate dog ownership to more frequent and longer durations of positive behaviours, such as smiling and physical contacting of children with ASD. This is in line with Carlisle (2015), who reported increased social skills of children with ASD and bonding to their dogs. In addition, positive effects of dog ownership on family functioning and child anxiety and stress are reported by various researchers (Hall, Wright, Hames, & Mills, 2016;Viau et al., 2010;Wright et al., 2015). ...
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Background: Dog-assisted therapy (DAT) is hypothesized to help children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and Down syndrome (DS). Methods: The present authors compared synchronous movement patterns of these children (n = 10) and their therapy dogs during the first and last session of a DAT programme, and their post-therapy changes in emotional and behavioural problems. Results: The present authors found a significant increase in synchrony between child and therapy dog over time. Exploratory analyses suggest more synchrony between children with ASD and their therapy dogs, compared to the children with DS. Conclusions: This study is the first to test the synchrony hypothesis, shedding light upon a mechanism that may underlie the effect of DAT and how this may be different for children with ASD and DS.
... These may explain why only ownership of dogs showed a significant decreased risk of children to have developmental problems. In addition, a study suggested that pet ownership may be associated with increased social skills, and the positive effect was only found in association with dog ownerships [38]. Research over the past 30 years [39] and a systematic review [40] indicated that dogs may offer physiological, emotional, social, physical support, and beneficial effect on a number of behavioral processes for children. ...
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Contact with companion animals has been suggested to have important roles in enhancing child development. However, studies focused on child development and pet ownership at a very early age are limited. The purpose of the current study was to investigate child development in relation to pet ownership at an early age in a nationwide prospective birth cohort study: the Japan Environment and Children’s Study. Associations between cat and dog ownership at six months and infant development at 12 months of age were examined in this study. Infant development was assessed using the Ages & Stages QuestionnairesTM (ASQ-3) at 12 months. Among participants of (Japan Environment and Children’s Study) JECS, those with available data of cat and dog ownership at six months and data for the ASQ-3 at 12 months were included (n = 78,868). Having dogs showed higher percentages of pass in all five domains measured by ASQ-3 (communication, gross motor, fine motor, problem-solving, and personal-social) compared to those who did not have dogs. Significantly decreased odds ratios (ORs) of developmental delays were observed in association with having dogs in all fix domains (communication: OR = 0.73, gross motor: OR = 0.86, fine motor: OR = 0.84, problem-solving: OR = 0.90, personal-social: OR = 0.83). This study suggested that early life dog ownership may reduce the risks of child developmental delays.
... The findings suggest that the presence of an animal confers a unique anxiolytic effect for children with ASD. Previous studies with this population and other children with ASD have demonstrated that the presence of an animal is related to increased social skills (e.g., Carlisle, 2014;O'Haire et al., 2014), less social withdrawal, and fewer negative social interactions (e.g., Berry, Borgi, Francia, Alleva, & Cirulli, 2012;Gabriels et al., 2012;O'Haire et al., 2013). These outcomes represent three components of the proposed developmental pathway to social anxiety in ASD. ...
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Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experience high rates of social stress and anxious arousal. Preliminary evidence suggests that companion animals can act as buffers against the adverse effects of social stress in adults. We measured continuous physiological arousal in children with ASD and typically developing (TD) children in a social context during four conditions: (a) a baseline of reading silently, (b) a scripted classroom activity involving reading aloud, (c) free play with peers and toys, and (d) free play with peers and animals (guinea pigs). Our results confirmed heightened arousal among children with ASD compared to TD children in all conditions, except when the animals were present. Children with ASD showed a 43% decrease in skin conductance responses during free play with peers in the presence of animals, compared to toys. Thus, animals may act as social buffers for children with ASD, conferring unique anxiolytic effects. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Dev Psychobiol. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
... Children with ASD have been shown to develop a strong bonding with pet dogs [28], and it has been shown that children with ASD are sensitive to the presence of service dogs which may be beneficial in managing behaviors [29]. A case study which involved 14 sessions of animal-assisted play therapy demonstrated that it helped improve social communication, including joint attention and waiting behaviors [30]. ...
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Many different complementary and alternative treatments have been suggested and used for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). These treatments may be complementary (treatments undertaken in combination with evidence-based treatments) or alternative (undertaken instead of more conventional treatments). This chapter summarizes some of the issues in considering new treatments. Treatments of all kinds have been suggested to help children (and adults) with ASD. The chapter reviews some of those usually of interest to parents. There are many drug treatments for ASD that are controversial or alternative given the lack of solid supportive data (much less approval). The chapter also summarizes some of these briefly. The development of stem cell technology, particularly the more recent ability to use a patient's own skin or blood to develop stem cell lines, has considerable scientific interest. It has been recommended to improve brain functioning and development.
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The type of complementary treatment under the interdisciplinary term Animal-assisted interventions - AAI implies all types of interventions which integrate a variety of animals within two key modalities: Animal-Assisted Activities - AAA and Animal-Assisted Therapy - AAT. Interventions can be implemented with persons of all ages in a variety of settings (schools, health care and correctional institutions, etc.). The main objective of this paper is to show different forms and contents of interventions, as well as flexible implementation through examples of research results involving young persons with developmental disabilities and behavioral disorders, by reviewing the available literature. Apart from the potentials of Animal-assisted interventions, certain limitations and implementation challenges have also been pointed out, as well as criticisms, primarily focused on methodological flaws in empirical research.
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Chapter
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Thesis
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) involve a significantly different developmental prognosis depending on severity and associated disorders. Relationship difficulties, inadequate behaviours and the specific needs of the child have implications on family functioning and affect parents' experiences. This situation generates significant stress that can potentially undermine parental cohesion, affect parent-child interactions, impair parenting, and lead to lessened perceptions of the quality of family relationships. Considering the social ecology of the family environment allows us to question the relationship between the family climate perceived by mothers, evaluated by the IRF (LARIPE, 1989), and the perceived maternal stress, measured by the ISP/FB (Bigras, LaFrenière and Abidin, 1996), taking into account the singularity of disability, namely autistic disorder severity, determined by the EEAI (Rogé, 1989), and the coexistence of a language disorder and/or an associated intellectual impairment defined by medical diagnosis realized prior to study.Language competence has a high impact, both on the age of parental alert and age of diagnosis by professionals, and is strongly associated with the severity of autistic disorders evaluation (N=65). Depending on the level of perceived maternal stress, using a cluster analysis based on the dimensions of ISP/FB, the quality of family relationships differs significantly. The most stressed mothers perceive the family climate as more confrontational. By considering maternal experience at the eco-systemic level rather than dyadic, an ecological intervention by integrating a MIRA Foundation (Quebec) assistance dog into the family group (n=24) produced a concomitant decrease for maternal stress related to management of child's difficult behaviours and for severity of autistic disorders. In absence of differences in the first measurement time with mothers waiting for service (n=26), mothers in families with a dog are less stressed both overall, than for interactions and for education of the autistic child. They also perceive a more favourable relationship climate. Results obtained highlight the contribution of animal mediation to improving the quality of life of all members in the microsystem, particularly on intra and extra-familial interactions facilitation. Keywords : Autism Spectrum Disorders - Family Functioning - Parental Stress - Social Ecology - Animal Mediation (French manuscript)
Thesis
While the popularity of animal-assisted interventions (AAI) continues to increase, the empirical support to justify its use is still debatable. What is also largely absent from the extant literature are large-scale examinations of clinician populations that may incorporate AAI in their practices. This survey study was conducted to examine the use, perceptions, and knowledge of animal incorporation practices incorporated into ABA services by ABA clinicians that serve children and youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). A total of 544 ABA clinicians within the United States completed the web-based survey instrument. Data confirmed that respondents have not only considered the incorporation of animals into ABA services, but a meaningful number have also engaged in animal incorporation practices. Dogs were the most frequently incorporated animal with intervention and animal characteristics variable across respondents. Respondents reported animal incorporation as desirable and feasible, but had generally low levels of knowledge about animal-assisted interventions. Perceptions of the effects of human-animal interactions on children and youth with ASD were overall positive. Results of this study uncovered a number of concerns related to professional implications and animal welfare.
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Within the last 3 decades, studies across a wide range of disciplines have provided evidence that the human-animal bond can contribute to good health, psychosocial well-being, and recovery from serious medical conditions. The purpose of this article is to provide a description of animal-assisted group therapy (AAGT) in terms of its applicability in an outpatient community mental health setting serving dually diagnosed adults. The results of this exploratory study are addressed in terms of member demographics, group description and preparation, group procedures, structure and format, primary clinical interventions, and directions for future research. Furthermore, a conceptual framework for facilitating the incorporation of animals in therapeutically meaningful ways within a group modality is described. Patient testimonials, clinical observations, and preliminary results of a brief stress measure indicate that the power of AAGT is greater than simply a reduction in self-reported stress. While future research is needed to support and expand on these findings, this study provides preliminary evidence indicating AAGT as an efficacious treatment option for individuals seeking relief from a wide range of stressors in a mental-health setting. A final aim of this study is to provide a general framework that can be replicated to motivate and inform interested providers in their efforts to collaborate with local animal-assisted therapy programs, expand group therapy options, and stimulate further research.
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This paper examines theories of sociality against ethnographically informed understandings of the sociality of children affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) interacting with therapy dogs and other people. I explore from an occupational science and occupational therapy perspective how theories of human sociality inform our understanding of the ways in which a child's social engagement is supported during child–dog interactions; and how analysis of the data might problematize some theoretical assumptions about sociality, specifically, the primacy of language and theory of mind, and the 'humans only' position.
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The current study was designed to compare the socio-emotional characteristics of school children pet owners and children without pets and to examine whether the type of pet is a variable which can differentiate the socio-emotional development of their owners. The subjects, 425 girls and 401 boys, were students of fourth (n=265), sixth (n=295) and eighth (n=266) grade of elementary schools from the metropolitan area of Zagreb, Croatia. Socio-emotional variables assessed in the study were: child attachment to pet, child prosocial orientation, empathy, loneliness, perception of family climate and social anxiety. The data showed that 54.4% of children in the sample were pet owners (26.2% of children in the study had a dog, 9.2% had a cat, and 19.0% had some other pet). In order to answer the main research question, several analyses of variance (gender by grade by pet ownership) were computed for each criterion of socio-emotional development. Significant main effects were obtained for empathy, prosocial orientation and pet attachment, with dog owners being more empathic and prosocially oriented than non-owners, and dog owners and cat owners being more attached to their pets than owners of other kinds of pets. Additional analyses of variance were computed in order to examine the role of attachment in the socio-emotional functioning of the children. Subjects were divided in three sub-groups: non-owners, lower then average attached owners, and higher than average attached owners. Children who scored higher than average on the attachment to pets scale showed significantly higher scores on the empathy and prosocial orientation scales than non-owners and children who scored lower than average on the attachment to pets scale. It was also found that children with higher levels of attachment to pets rated their family climate significantly better than children who had lower attachment to pets.
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The inclusion of animals in therapeutic activities, known as animal-assisted intervention (AAI), has been suggested as a treatment practice for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This paper presents a systematic review of the empirical research on AAI for ASD. Fourteen studies published in peer-reviewed journals qualified for inclusion. The presentation of AAI was highly variable across the studies. Reported outcomes included improvements for multiple areas of functioning known to be impaired in ASD, namely increased social interaction and communication as well as decreased problem behaviors, autistic severity, and stress. Yet despite unanimously positive outcomes, most studies were limited by many methodological weaknesses. This review demonstrates that there is preliminary "proof of concept" of AAI for ASD and highlights the need for further, more rigorous research.
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The Companion Animal Bonding Scale, an 8-item behavioral scale describing the extent of child–animal activities, was administered to 121 high school and college students. The Cronbach alpha estimates of internal reliability were 0.82 and 0.77, respectively. Construct validity was indicated by significant correlations between scores on a pet attitude scale and a childhood and contemporary bonding scale of .39 and .40, respectively. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Background: Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are characterized by deficits in social reciprocity and communication, and by unusually restricted, repetitive behaviors. Intervention strategies based on the exploitation of the emotional aspects of human-dog relationships hold the potential to overcome the difficulty of subjects with ASD to relate and interact effectively with others, targeting core symptoms of this disorder. Methods: This review summarizes the results of six published studies on the effects of brief interactions with dogs and the effects of introducing dogs in families with a child diagnosed with ASD, with an emphasis on social behaviors and language use. Furthermore, the possible mechanisms responsible for the beneficial effects observed are discussed. Conclusions: Although the studies described here are encouraging, further research with better designs and using larger samples is needed to strengthen translation of such interventions to the clinic. In addition, potential applications of analyzing child-dog interactions are highlighted to screen for early signs of the disorder.
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Alteration of social interactions especially prosocial behaviors--an important aspect of development--is one of the characteristics of autistic disorders. Numerous strategies or therapies are used to improve communication skills or at least to reduce social impairments. Animal-assisted therapies are used widely but their relevant benefits have never been scientifically evaluated. In the present study, we evaluated the association between the presence or the arrival of pets in families with an individual with autism and the changes in his or her prosocial behaviors. Of 260 individuals with autism--on the basis of presence or absence of pets--two groups of 12 individuals and two groups of 8 individuals were assigned to: study 1 (pet arrival after age of 5 versus no pet) and study 2 (pet versus no pet), respectively. Evaluation of social impairment was assessed at two time periods using the 36-items ADI-R algorithm and a parental questionnaire about their child-pet relationships. The results showed that 2 of the 36 items changed positively between the age of 4 to 5 (t(0)) and time of assessment (t(1)) in the pet arrival group (study 1): "offering to share" and "offering comfort". Interestingly, these two items reflect prosocial behaviors. There seemed to be no significant changes in any item for the three other groups. The interactions between individuals with autism and their pets were more--qualitatively and quantitatively--reported in the situation of pet arrival than pet presence since birth. These findings open further lines of research on the impact of pet's presence or arrival in families with an individual with autism. Given the potential ability of individuals with autism to develop prosocial behaviors, related studies are needed to better understand the mechanisms involved in the development of such child-pet relationship.
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This article reviews behavioral and electrophysiological studies of face processing and discusses hypotheses for understanding the nature of face processing impairments in autism. Based on results of behavioral studies, this study demonstrates that individuals with autism have impaired face discrimination and recognition and use atypical strategies for processing faces characterized by reduced attention to the eyes and piecemeal rather than configural strategies. Based on results of electrophysiological studies, this article concludes that face processing impairments are present early in autism, by 3 years of age. Such studies have detected abnormalities in both early (N170 reflecting structural encoding) and late (NC reflecting recognition memory) stages of face processing. Event-related potential studies of young children and adults with autism have found slower speed of processing of faces, a failure to show the expected speed advantage of processing faces versus nonface stimuli, and atypical scalp topography suggesting abnormal cortical specialization for face processing. Other electrophysiological studies have suggested that autism is associated with early and late stage processing impairments of facial expressions of emotion (fear) and decreased perceptual binding as reflected in reduced gamma during face processing. This article describes two types of hypotheses-cognitive/perceptual and motivational/affective--that offer frameworks for understanding the nature of face processing impairments in autism. This article discusses implications for intervention.
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Research studies on sensory issues in autism, including those based on questionnaires, autobiographical accounts, retrospective video observations and early experimental approaches are reviewed in terms of their strengths and limitations. We present a cognitive neuroscience theoretical perspective on multisensory integration and propose that this may be a useful way of conceptualizing and studying sensory integration and the perceptual experience of persons with autism. Our goal is to operationalize the concept of sensory integration, a notion that is frequently alluded to in the field of autism yet rarely defined in empirical terms. We conclude with a discussion of how this re-conceptualization and study of sensory integration may generate testable hypotheses and lead to refinements in current perceptual theories of autism.
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This exploratory study investigated how clients of a large urban veterinary center viewed the role of their pet in the family and how they compared this role to that of humans. In Phase 1, randomly selected clients (N = 201) completed a questionnaire containing scales delineating family relationships and pet attachment. Being either a man ora college graduate was associated with lesser feelings of psychological kinship and intimacy, both with pets and people. Neither living with a partner nor having a child affected the strength of pet relationships. In Phase 2, 16 participants from Phase I completed a social network instrument and answered questions about family roles and boundaries. Thirteen of the 16 respondents said that there were circumstances in which they would give a scarce drug to their pet in preference to a person outside the family.
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This introductory chapter provides readers not only with a basic foundation to appreciate and understand this unique kinship with all living creatures but also to discover the roots to the overwhelming growing interest in animal-assisted intervention (AAI). The chapter should also help solidify and clarify how the benefits witnessed within this unique bond have prompted numerous professionals to become more curious about the advantages of animal-assisted interventions. It is apparent that dogs have been bred to coexist with their human counterparts and have filled many roles including herding, guarding, hunting, fishing and being our best friend (Clutton-Brock, 1995). Dogs have also been widely used as service animals, supporting the quality of life of people in need. There have been increasing insights into science’s current understanding of dog behavior and cognition. Perhaps one of the strongest insights that she discusses pertains to dogs’ ability to understand our behaviors (Hare, 2007; Hare et al., 2002). Horowitz (2009) explains that dogs’
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Using a multi-dimensional, multi-measure approach, this study examined children's attachment to their pets and related three dimensions of such attachment—behavioral, affective and cognitive—to empathy and perceived competence. Child characteristics (age, sex), family characteristics (marital status, socioeconomic status, maternal employment and family size) and pet type (dog, cat) as influences on attachment to pets also were explored. Individual interviews were conducted with 120 children from kindergarten, second-and fifth-grades, and questionnaire responses were collected from one parent of each child. Pet attachment was higher for older children and those whose mothers were employed. Pet attachment related differently to empathy and perceived competence depending upon grade level.
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This study aimed to examine the role of pet dogs in families of children with autism. Sixty-seven percent of families owned dogs and 94% reported that their children were bonded to their dogs. Parents described previous experience with dogs and beliefs in their benefits as influential in their dog ownership decision-making process. Children living with dogs interacted with them in play and/or sharing personal space. Sensory issues of the children impacted their interaction with dogs inside and outside the home. Time and cost of care were identified burdens of dog ownership. Benefits were the opportunity to learn responsibility and companionship.
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The present study was aimed at identifying meaningful and sensitive measures of the potential social-emotional benefits and costs that children report as associated with their involvement with companion animals. The sample consisted of 213 children in grades 3 through 7 who had pets and another 44 who did not. The high percentage of pet ownership found is not unusual. Two questionnaires measuring pet benefits and pet costs were administered. The benefits identified were mutuality, enduring affection, self-enhancing affection, and exclusivity of relationship. The costs identified were distress stemming from pet death or pet rejection, unfair grief, dissatisfaction with pet's needs, worry about pet safety, “getting into trouble,” and distress at not being allowed to care for pet needs.
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Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) has been practiced for many years and there is now increasing interest in demonstrating its efficacy through research. To date, no known quantitative review of AAT studies has been published; our study sought to fill this gap. We conducted a comprehensive search of articles reporting on AAT in which we reviewed 250 studies, 49 of which met our inclusion criteria and were submitted to meta-analytic procedures. Overall, AAT was associated with moderate effect sizes in improving outcomes in four areas: Autism-spectrum symptoms, medical difficulties, behavioral problems, and emotional well-being. Contrary to expectations, characteristics of participants and studies did not produce differential outcomes. AAT shows promise as an additive to established interventions and future research should investigate the conditions under which AAT can be most helpful.
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While studies of human/animal interactions have generated much creditable research, have produced a considerable body of related experimental data, and have pointed to many fruitful future lines of inquiry, their authors have been accused of having no theoretical foundations. But studies of the human/companion animal bond (H/CAB) already undertaken have been based on animal/animal, human/human, and human/object relationships as analogous theories most likely to provide the comprehensive inductive, deductive, and functional theoretical bases needed. In order to arrive at a more encompassing theory that can be used to organize data and results, to explain obtained results, and to generate reliable predictions for data not yet obtained, the present weaknesses in each of the models need to be rigorously analyzed for likenesses and differences, and those data that do not seem to fit any of the model analogues must be pinpointed for more exacting research.
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A group of elementary students (n = 155) were surveyed with respect to four aspects of relationships with pets—preference, ownership, attachment, and attitude—in order to further explore the connection that appears to exist between human-animal interactions and empathy. The investigation was initiated, in part, in order to elaborate upon findings from an earlier study (Daly and Morton 2003) and focused mainly on the relationships between children and dogs and cats, although horses, birds, and fish were also included. Some of the general findings related to dogs and cats are: (1) children who preferred (Pet Preference Inventory) both dogs and cats were more empathic than those who preferred cats or dogs only; (2) those who owned both dogs and cats were more empathic than those who owned only a dog, owned only a cat, or who owned neither; (3) those who were highly attached to their pets (Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale) were more empathic than those who were less attached; and (4) empathy and positive attitude (Pet Attitude Scale) revealed a significant positive correlation. As expected, girls were significantly more empathic than boys. Moreover, while cell sizes were low with respect to pet preference and ownership, empathy was also higher for individuals who expressed a preference for birds and horses. While the earlier study (Daly and Morton 2003) indicated that higher empathy was associated with dog ownership more so than other pets, including cats, a notable finding of the present study is that empathy appears to be positively associated with individuals who prefer, and/or who own, both a dog and a cat. The implications extend to the need: (1) for continued empirical research investigating the relationship between human-animal interactions and empathy; and (2) to refine the questions that lead to a clearer explanation of this relationship.
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Physiological arousal and behavioral distress in children aged from two to six years undergoing a physical examination were examined with and without the presence of a companion dog. An experimental/control group, repeated measures design was utilized to study children at a pediatric clinic. Thirty-four (14 males, 20 females) children were assigned randomly either to a treatment group (n=15) in which a therapy dog was present during their examinations or to a control group (n=19) which had the usual pediatric exam without a dog present. Physiological variables (systolic, diastolic, and mean arterial pressures, heart rate, and fingertip temperatures) were measured at baseline and at two-minute intervals during each examination. Subjects were videotaped during the examination for analysis of behavioral distress using the Observation Scale of Behavioral Distress (OSBD). Physiological measurements were not statistically significantly different between the dog and no-dog groups but were found not to be good measures of physiologic arousal in this age group. There was statistically significantly less behavioral distress when the dog was present (M=0.06 in the dog group versus 0.27 in the no-dog group: F(1,32)=4.90, p=0.034). These findings replicate those of Nagengast et al. (1997) who found that the presence of a companion dog could lower the behavioral distress of children during a laboratory simulated physical examination and suggest that companion animals may be useful in a variety of health care settings to decrease procedure-induced distress in children.
Article
It is known that pet dogs can act as catalysts for human social interactions, and it has been suggested that this may enhance feelings of well-being. Two studies were carried out to establish the robustness of this effect. In Study 1, a highly trained dog was used to ensure that the dog itself did not solicit attention from passers-by, and data were collected across a range of normal daily activities in which a dog could be included, not confined to conventional dog walking areas as in previous studies. Being accompanied by a dog increased the frequency of social interactions, especially interactions with strangers. In Study 2, also using a trained dog, a different (male) participant observer was dressed either smartly or scruffily. Although there were significantly more interactions when he was smartly dressed, the greatest effect was between the Dog present and No Dog conditions irrespective of the handler's dress. It is concluded that the social catalysis effect is very robust, which opens the way for investigating possible consequences of the effect for wellbeing and health.
Article
Little is known about the manifestation of aggressive behavior in children with autism, although it is commonly cited as a significant problem. Existing reports in autism do not emphasize subtypes of aggression, whereas distinguishing forms of aggression is commonplace in the typically developing literature. This study compared a sample of 121 children aged 3–20 years with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) to 244 children with other intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD; age 4–21 years). Item- and subscale-level data from the Children's Scale for Hostility and Aggression: Reactive/Proactive (C-SHARP) were reported. Children with ASDs received higher ratings than those with IDD on several subscales tapping physical and reactive aggression. Within the ASD group, children with Asperger's disorder were rated significantly higher than children with autism on subscales tapping covert and verbal behaviors. Results indicate that at least some types of aggression were more common in children with ASDs than those with IDDs.
Article
Children's use of pets as transitional objects and the contributions of pets to children's emotional well-being were examined. The sample included 94 boys and 80 girls in preschool through Grade 5; 70% were current pet owners, and 30% were not pet owners. Each participant was individually interviewed using a structured interview format of 20 questions for current pet owners and three questions for non-pet owners to assess perceptions about the role of friendships between animals and humans, shared activities between children and pets, ways animals and humans communicate love for one another, types of verbal and nonverbal communication and interactions between animals and humans, and ways animals provide love, security, and emotional support to humans. Analysis indicated that children perceive their pets as special friends, important family members, and providers of social interactions, affection, and emotional support. Results are discussed in terms of the parallels between children's use of inanimate transitional objects and their use of pets as transitional objects.
Background and objectives: Canine-assisted therapy has been receiving growing attention as a means of aiding children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Yet, only limited studies have been done and a great deal of literature related to this intervention is anecdotal. The present study aims at providing additional quantitative evidence on the potential of dogs to positively modulate the behavior of children with ASD. Settings/location, subjects, and interventions: A 12-year-old boy diagnosed with ASD was exposed, at his usual treatment location (the Portuguese Association for Developmental Disorders and Autism at Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal), to the following treatment conditions: (1) one-to-one structured activities with a therapist assisted by a certified therapy dog, and (2) one-to-one structured activities with the same therapist alone (as a control). To accurately assess differences in the behavior of the participant between these treatment conditions, the therapist followed a strict research protocol. The behavior of the participant was continuously video-recorded during both treatment conditions for further analysis and comparison. Treatment outcomes: In the presence of the dog, the participant exhibited more frequent and longer durations of positive behaviors (such as smiling and positive physical contacting) as well as less frequent and shorter durations of negative behaviors (such as aggressive manifestations). Conclusions: These findings are in accordance with previous experimental work and provide additional support for the assertion that dogs can prime autistic children for therapy. Ultimately, this study may contribute toward a change for full acceptance of canine-assisted therapy programs within the medical milieu. Additional studies using a similar research protocol on more autistic children will certainly help professionals to work on the most effective methods to individually serve this population through canine-assisted interventions.
Article
There is a widespread belief that interaction with an animal is beneficial for the development of children, and several studies (most with methodological shortcomings) have investigated the influence of (companion) animals on the social-emotional and cognitive development of children. In this article, the 1984 model of Professor Jay Belsky has been used to describe which variables influence the development of children and how the companion animal-child interaction influences these variables. The value of the AAA/AAT (Animal Assisted Activities/Animal Assisted Therapy) programmes in children with a wide variety of clinical and social problems, such as behaviour problems and autistic spectrum symptoms, is discussed. The findings suggest that (companion) animals positively influence children's development and have a valuable role in therapy.
Article
Children with autism might display unpredictable and volatile behavior that places them in considerable physical danger and creates stress for the family. Families of autistic children often have limited freedom and experience difficulty with everyday activities. In this qualitative ethology study, we examined the effect of integrating service dogs into ten families with an autistic child. Data included participant observation, video recordings of family-parent-dog interaction, and semistructured interviews with the parents. The themes were (a) the dog as a sentinel of safety, (b) gaining freedom through enhanced safety, facilitating public outings and family activities, and (c) improving social recognition and status, in which the presence of the dog promoted awareness of autism and affected social interaction. The triadic relationship between parent, autistic child, and service dog constantly evolves. This research provides valuable information for parents interested in having a service dog for their autistic child, and has implications for long-term human-animal companionship for children with special needs and their caregivers.
Article
To estimate the incidence of dog bites in the USA and compare it with similar estimates from 1994. Nationally representative cross-sectional, list-assisted, random-digit-dialed telephone survey conducted during 2001-2003. Weighted estimates were generated from data collected by surveying 9684 households during 2001-2003 and compared with results from a similar survey conducted in 1994. Estimates for persons aged 15-17 years were extrapolated on the basis of rates for 10-14-year-olds. Whereas the incidence of dog bites among adults remained relatively unchanged, there was a significant (47%) decline in the incidence of dog bites among children compared with that observed in the 1994 survey, particularly among boys and among those aged 0-4 years. Between 2001 and 2003, an estimated 4 521 300 persons were bitten each year. Of these, 885 000 required medical attention (19%). Children were more likely than adults to receive medical attention for a dog bite. Among adults, bite rates decreased with increasing age. Among children and adults, having a dog in the household was associated with a significantly increased incidence of dog bites, with increasing incidence also related to increasing numbers of dogs. Dog bites continue to be a public health problem affecting 1.5% of the US population annually. Although comparison with similar data from 1994 suggests that bite rates for children are decreasing, there still appears to be a need for effective prevention programs.
Article
Two age groups of normal, autistic and subnormal children were tested for their ability to recognize the faces of peers from isolated facial features and inverted photographs. The normal and subnormal subjects found the upper regions of the face most helpful for identification, whereas the younger autistic children found the lower features more helpful. The older autistic children showed no specific reliance on any one area, but were found to have error scores as low as those of the younger autistic children on the recognition of lower parts and error scores as low as the; controls on recognizing upper portions. The results are discussed and are found to favour a hypothesis in which the autistic child's familiarity with the mouth and/or eye areas is related to a cognitive deficit which affects the processing of both verbal and non-verbal interpersonal communication.
Article
We videotaped 24 children, adolescents, and young adults with autism, individually matched for chronological age and verbal mental age with 24 nonautistic persons with mental retardation, for their spontaneous and prompted greetings and farewells towards an unfamiliar adult. Compared with control subjects, those with autism were less likely to offer spontaneous verbal and nonverbal gestures of greeting and farewell, and were less likely to establish eye contact even when they were offered a greeting. There were also fewer autistic subjects who smiled, or who waved goodbye. Results corresponded with raters' subjective judgments of participants' interpersonal engagement with the stranger. One interpretation of the findings is that they reflect a relative lack of intersubjective engagement by autistic individuals.
Article
It is known that pet dogs can act as catalysts for human social interactions, and it has been suggested that this may enhance feelings of well-being. Two studies were carried out to establish the robustness of this effect. In Study 1, a highly trained dog was used to ensure that the dog itself did not solicit attention from passers-by, and data were collected across a range of normal daily activities in which a dog could be included, not confined to conventional dog walking areas as in previous studies. Being accompanied by a dog increased the frequency of social interactions, especially interactions with strangers. In Study 2, also using a trained dog, a different (male) participant observer was dressed either smartly or scruffily. Although there were significantly more interactions when he was smartly dressed, the greatest effect was between the Dog present and No Dog conditions irrespective of the handler's dress. It is concluded that the social catalysis effect is very robust, which opens the way for investigating possible consequences of the effect for well-being and health.
Article
This exploratory study investigated how clients of a large urban veterinary center viewed the role of their pet in the famil and how they compared this role to that of humans. In Phase 1, randomly selected clients (N = 201) completed a questionnaire containing scales delineating family relationships and pet attachment. Being either a man or a college graduate was associated with lesser feelings of psychological kinship and intimacy, both with pets and people. Neither living with a partner norhaving a child affected the strength of pet relationships. In Phase 2, 16 participants from Phase I completed a social network instrument and answered questions about family roles and boundaries. Thirteen of the 16 respondents said that there were circumstances in which they would give a scarce drug to their pet in preference to a person outside the family.
Pets as social support for families of young children
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