Can therapy dogs be beneficial for children with autism spectrum disorder?

About 1 in 150 children are affected by an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a group of neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by difficulty with language, communication, and social interaction. A critical review of several published studies evaluating the potential for therapy or assistance dogs to help children with ASD overcome some of these challenges is published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers.

Interactions with therapy dogs, or the introduction of an assistance dog into a household with a child who has an ASD, may help the child develop emotional attachments and interaction in a social setting based on simple and predictable patterns, without having to interpret . The enhanced capability for social interaction they would achieve may then carry over to interpersonal communication and relationships.

In the article "Use of Assistance and Therapy Dogs for Children with : A Critical Review of the Current Evidence," Alessandra Berry, PhD and coauthors from Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy, describe the body of published study results as encouraging. They emphasize the need for larger, better designed studies in the future to confirm and build on these findings.

Related Stories

Children with autism benefit from early, intensive therapy

date Sep 28, 2011

A primary characteristic of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is impairments in social-communication skills. Children and adolescents with social-communication problems face difficulty understanding, interacting and relating ...

Brain scans detect autism's signature

date Nov 15, 2010

An autism study by Yale School of Medicine researchers using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has identified a pattern of brain activity that may characterize the genetic vulnerability to developing autism spectrum ...

Toward a long-sought saliva test for autism

date Jan 12, 2009

Researchers in Italy are reporting discovery of abnormal proteins in the saliva of autism patients that could eventually provide a clue for the molecular basis of this severe developmental disorder and could be used as a ...

Recommended for you

Paternal sperm may hold clues to autism

date Apr 15, 2015

In a small study, Johns Hopkins researchers found that DNA from the sperm of men whose children had early signs of autism shows distinct patterns of regulatory tags that could contribute to the condition. ...

Why employing autistic people makes good business sense

date Apr 14, 2015

Microsoft has announced its intention to hire more autistic people – not as a charitable enterprise but because, as corporate vice-president Mary Ellen Smith said: "People with autism bring strengths that ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.