Sunday, November 13, 2011

News: What Does the Evidence Show Us? The Role and Benefits of Autism Service Dogs

"Dr. Thomas Zane is a professor of education and director of the Applied Behavior Analysis Online Program at the Van Loan Graduate School of Endicott College. He is a licensed psychologist in New York and Massachusetts. Dr. Zane has published in various journals and books, presented at regional, national, and international conferences, and been an invited lecturer in Ireland and the Republic of China. His research interests include teacher training, staff development, and evidenced-based practice in autism. As part of his duties at Endicott College, he offers a BCBA certificate program through distance learning.
Animals have long been used to provide unique services for individuals who need specialized assistance in some way. For example, Seeing Eye dogs are trained to provide assistance to persons with visual impairments to negotiate the physical environment. In addition to providing such basic services as security and protection, animals have been used to provide emotional and psychological comfort and support to people (e.g., Hall & Malpus, 2000). In fact, it has been experimentally shown that social interactions can increase simply by being in the presence of a dog (McNicholas & Collis, 2000).
The increasing incidence of autism spectrum disorders has resulted in an increase in therapies designed to treat this condition. A recent development has been the training of dogs to specialize in working with persons with autism spectrum disorders. Proponents of “autism dogs” assert that these dogs can support the unique challenges of persons on the spectrum. This article reviews the current knowledge and research in this area." Read More


Voxina said...

I think it's a good idea. A new one, of course, but a good idea nonetheless. I have a mobility dog for my movement disorder, (who has radically changed my life in the 3 months that I've had him!) One of those changes, other than functioning independently for the first time in years, is that socializing is a lot easier. I used to be the unapproachable person, and didn't know what to say, either (I have a mild form of autism myself) but having Mack makes it a lot easier. Although, I do question the drawbacks such as pairing a dog with a very young child who cannot control the dog out in public by himself. Mack does deep-pressure for me (sitting on me) because that helps stop my muscle spasms, and I've noticed it helps reduce anxiety as well. I can see where some of these things would help people with autism, certainly, but very young children may not be ready for one...discretion I guess is key there.

Melissa Mitchell said...

Dear Voxina,
Thanks for reading, commenting and sharing your experiences!Food for thought for sure.