Sunday, April 11, 2010

Autism Awareness Month: Research around Autism Service Dogs

This post shares a group of scientific studies and articles around Autism Service Dogs.


An assistance dog is specially trained to act as a companion to the person with autism.
It encourages him to communicate and be more sociable.
It may also prevent him from getting lost or hurting himself.


There is currently very limited scientifically valid or reliable evidence to support the use of assistance animals for people with autism.
However the personal experience of some of our trustees/members of our scientific and advisory committee suggests that assistance dogs may be beneficial to some individuals with autism spectrum disorders. The benefits reported are not huge but do go some way to making life better for certain individuals.
For these reasons we believe that research into this the use of assistance dogs for people with autism spectrum disorders is warranted. Read More

  • Sentinels of safety: service dogs ensure safety and enhance freedom and well-being for families with autistic children.

    Ontario Veterinary College, Department of Population Medicine, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.


    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. Read More

  • Factors affecting behavior and welfare of service dogs for children with autism spectrum disorder.

    Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada.


    The use of service dogs for children with autism spectrum disorder is a relatively new and growing assistance-dog application. The objectives of this article were to identify and describe the factors influencing an autism service dog's performance and the impact of this type of placement on the dog's welfare. A qualitative approach uses interview and observational data to characterize the dogs' behaviors and welfare with relevancy to the dogs' home environments. Identification of potential physical stressors included lack of rest or recovery time after working, unintentional maltreatment and prodding by children with autism, lack of predictability in daily routines, and insufficient opportunities for recreational activities. Read More

  • Challenges of service-dog ownership for families with autistic children: lessons for veterinary practitioners.

    Belau National Hospital, Ministry of Health, Koror Republic of Palau.


    The purpose of this paper is to describe the challenges of service-dog ownership for families with autistic children. Through a qualitative interview process, this study has found that the integration of a service dog into a home environment is a highly dynamic and interactive process with numerous benefits and challenges. Public-access issues, learning to interpret dog behavior, the time constraints of increased social interactions, and the time of year the dog is placed into the family are important components affecting parental satisfaction. Parent, family, and child challenges included the dog being extra work, finding added time to maintain training, financing care for the dog, and the impact on family dynamics. Read More

  • While service dogs for autistic kids paw their way into the classroom, scientists have decided to finally study the link between kids and their pets.
    Sponsored by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the study is meant to go beyond anecdotal evidence that therapy animals have a positive affect on kids, especially those with autism. Read More

    Readers may be able to easily find the full text of these studies with the help of the local public library, happy reading!


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