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

February 12, 2013

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.

Explore further: Eye-tracking reveals variability in successful social strategies for children with autism

Related Stories

Children with autism benefit from early, intensive therapy

September 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 imaging alone cannot diagnose autism

November 2, 2012

In a column appearing in the current issue of the journal Nature, McLean Hospital biostatistician Nicholas Lange, ScD, cautions against heralding the use of brain imaging scans to diagnose autism and urges greater focus on ...

Recommended for you

For kids with autism, imitation is key on road to speech

April 5, 2017

Nearly 30 percent of children with autism will not have learned to flexibly speak by the end of elementary school. For researchers looking for ways to help, learning when to intervene in the children's speech development ...

Area of the brain affected by autism detected

April 3, 2017

Brain researchers at ETH Zurich and other universities have shown for the first time that a region of the brain associated with empathy only activates very weakly in autistic people. This knowledge could help to develop new ...

0 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.