New Scientific Study: Dogs Improve Social Skills for Children with Autism | HABRI

New Scientific Study: Dogs Improve Social Skills for Children with Autism

Results of HABRI-Funded Study Show Importance of Animal-Assisted Therapy

Results of HABRI-Funded Study Show Importance of Animal-Assisted Therapy

Washington, D.C. (May 22, 2017) — The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and Green Chimneys announced the publication of a study exploring the effectiveness of an animal-assisted social skills intervention for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Research was conducted at Green Chimneys, a therapeutic school and treatment center for children facing social, emotional, and behavioral challenges. Findings demonstrate that incorporating therapy dogs in social skills training is a valid approach to teaching children with ASD to engage with peers and improve social interaction.

“Not only do dogs appear to have a positive effect on children’s emotional states, but they can also be motivating factors that encourage social interaction and involvement,” said Dr. Joanna Becker, PhD, Sam and Myra Ross Institute Research Associate and the study’s principal investigator. “Animal-assisted interventions are a valid approach for teaching children with autism spectrum disorders the skills necessary to engage with peers, family members, and the larger community.”

Dr. Becker, along with co-PIs Dr. Erica Rogers and Dr. Bethany Burrows, analyzed 31 Green Chimneys students ages 8-14 diagnosed with ASD and compared social and emotional functioning before and after the intervention. Students either participated in an animal-assisted social skills group or in a traditional social skills training group without an animal present.

Findings showed that the inclusion of dogs in social skills training was more effective than traditional programs. Specifically, participants who received the animal-assisted social skills intervention exhibited fewer social skills deficits overall, fewer restricted and repetitive behaviors, and more typical social communication following the intervention. The study also found that participants who received the animal-assisted social skills intervention exhibited a greater level of change in social skills, perspective taking, theory of mind, and decreased feelings of isolation and depression.

“HABRI is proud to have partnered with Green Chimneys on this important research,” said HABRI Executive Director Steven Feldman. “HABRI will continue to fund innovative projects that expand our knowledge of the human-animal bond and the remarkable power of companion animals to improve our health.”

“The value of partnership with organizations such as HABRI is the opportunity to add to the growing pool of data demonstrating the benefits of integrating animals into therapy,” said Dr. Steven Klee, Green Chimneys Associate Executive Director of Clinical & Medical Services.

About HABRI

HABRI is a not-for-profit organization that maintains the world’s largest online library of human-animal bond research and information; funds innovative research projects to scientifically document the health benefits of companion animals; and informs the public about human-animal bond research and the beneficial role of companion animals in society. For more information, please visit www.habri.org.

About Green Chimneys

Green Chimneys is a multi-faceted nonprofit organization helping young people to maximize their full potential by providing residential, educational, clinical and recreational services in a safe and supportive environment that nurtures connections with their families, the community, animals and nature. Services include an accredited special education school on two campuses, residential treatment center, animal-assisted and nature-based therapeutic programs, public education and recreation programs, and community-based support for youth and families. All research is conducted under The Sam and Myra Ross Institute which serves to facilitate understanding, education and medical recognition of the significant influence of nature-based therapies, education and interactions. www.greenchimneys.org.

Contact

Jamie Baxter

jamie@theimpetusagency.com

775.322.4022

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The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) today announced it has awarded a $43,000 grant to the University of Missouri for a new study to explore how companion animals effect social engagement and psychological well-being in adults ages 55+. The primary objective of the study is to examine the influence of companion animal ownership on the social engagement (social contacts and organizational participation) and psychological well being (life satisfaction and depression) of adults. It aims to discover if companion animal owners have better social engagement and well-being than those who do not during mid- (55-64 years) and later (65+) adulthood, in addition to exploring the differences between the two age groups. “We are excited to be able to look at how having a cat or dog impacts social engagement and mental health for middle-aged and older adults,” said Dr. Rebecca Johnson, PhD, RN, FAAN, FNAP, lead investigator and professor at the University of Missouri. “We believe that people who have a dog or cat will be less socially isolated, have lower depression, and higher life satisfaction compared to non-pet owners.” The research team will analyze data from a recent national study, the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and utilize a novel approach in looking at those individuals who participated in an experimental human-animal interaction portion of the survey to provide a robust contribution to information on how companion animals can impact this demographic. The project is expected to be complete in one year. “With 75 million baby boomers entering mid and later adulthood it is vital that we understand how everything, including pets, can improve their lives,” said HABRI Executive Director Steve Feldman. “With the results of this study in hand, potential pet owners will have new information about the benefits of bringing a pet into their lives, and health care providers could more frequently consider prescribing pets for older Americans in their care.”

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Study Finds Dogs De-Stress Families with Autistic Children

The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Foundation announced today the results of a long-term study to explore the effects of pet dogs on families with children with autism spectrum disorder, just published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior. The findings of the study showed significantly improved family functioning of families with a dog compared to those without. The study also found a reduction in parent-child dysfunctional interactions among families that had a dog. “While there‭ ‬is‭ ‬growing‭ ‬evidence ‬that ‬animal-assisted‭ ‬therapy‭ ‬can aid in ‬the‭ ‬treatment‭ ‬of‭ children with ‬autism‭ ‬spectrum‭ ‬disorders, this study is one of the first to examine how‭ ‬pet‭ ‬dog‭ ‬ownership‭ ‬can also ‬improve‭ ‬the‭ ‬lives‭ ‬of‭ ‬those‭ ‬more widely affected‭ ‬by‭ ‬autism,” said the principal investigator ‬on the study, Professor Daniel Mills, BVSc, PhD, from the University of Lincoln, UK. “We found a significant,‭ ‬positive‭ ‬relationship‭ ‬between‭ ‬parenting‭ ‬stress‭ ‬of‭ ‬the child‭’‬s‭ ‬main‭ ‬caregiver‭ ‬and‭ ‬their‭ ‬attachment‭ ‬to‭ ‬the‭ family dog. This highlights the importance of the bond between the carer and their dog in the benefits they gain.”‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ HABRI Executive Director Steven Feldman said: “Parents of children with autism can experience increased anxiety and stress, and now we have strong scientific evidence to show that pets can have positive effects on these quality-of-life issues. Families with an autistic child should consider pet ownership as a way to improve family harmony.” This...

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