One in 44 children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder(ASD). Children with ASD have been found to benefit from interaction with dogs, yet minimal evidence has been found demonstrating the outcome of matching a service dog(SD)with children with ASD, and impacts this might have for the children, their caregivers and family.
The overall aim is to evaluate the impact of service dogs on children with ASD, their parents and families.
- Children with ASD’s anxiety will differ between the waitlist, the service dog training program and the matched group (i.e., higher anxiety score for the waitlist group).
- Children with ASD’s autism symptoms will differ between the waitlist, the service dog training program and the matched group(i.e., lower score for the waitlist group).
- Family functioning will differ between the waitlist, the SD training program and the matched group.
- Parents of children with ASD will bond with the service dog matched with their child and this attachment will be associated with parent’s evaluation of family functioning.
- Parents of children with ASD will have less anxiety and this decrease in anxiety will be associated with caregiver’s evaluation of family functioning.
We will utilize on online survey for a two-part study. In Study One we will utilize a cross-sectional survey of children with ASD ages 6-18 and their parents comparing those who have qualified for a service dog with those who have a service dog. Study Two will be a longitudinal study following children with ASD and their parents who have qualified to receive a service dog, through the training process and up to one year after matching with a service dog. Recruitment will be conducted through a Midwest service dog training organization.
We expect to find that children with ASD and their parents will benefit from participating in the training process of a service dog and after being matched with a service dog. We also expect children to benefit from the interaction with a service dog during training with an increase in benefits over time after matching with a service dog. In addition to this, we believe the children’s parents and family will also benefit over time from a service do in the family