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.
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.
More Press Releases
New Research to Investigate Impact of Pets on Social Functioning in Children with ADHD
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) announced today it has awarded a grant to GITAM (Deemed) University for a new study which will investigate the impact of pet ownership and human-animal interaction (HAI) on overall social functioning including social attention in children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This study aims to fill a critical gap in the current literature by uncovering the potential benefits of HAI on core deficit areas in ADHD. “This project brings together an international team of experts to undertake a comprehensive examination of social attention and emotion processing in neurotypical children and children living with ADHD,” said Dr. Georgitta Valiyamattam, GITAM University, the study’s Principal Investigator. “We hope to answer a key question – do foundational social skills in ADHD have the potential to be impacted by animal-assisted interventions? This knowledge will provide the necessary groundwork for future research and practice, which we hope will improve treatment and quality of life for children living with ADHD.” Along with Dr. Valiyamattam, the team comprises Dr. Harish Katti, Dr. Jessica Taubert, Dr. Vinay Chaganti and Dr. Virender Sachdeva. A substantial body of research describes social attention and emotional recognition deficits to human faces in ADHD. This project will study the impact of pet ownership on children with ADHD to determine whether HAI may enhance social attention and emotional recognition and modulate overall social functioning. State-of-the-art eye tracking technology and rigorous statistical approaches will be deployed to compare attention towards human and nonhuman faces. Researchers will also investigate the recognition of facial expressions. The research team anticipates that children with ADHD will show greater attention and emotion recognition capabilities for animal faces as compared to human faces. The focus on uncovering the visual mechanisms regarding HAI may also...
New Scientific Results: Asking Patients About Pets Enhances Patient Communication and Care
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), The University of Toronto, Markham Stouffville Hospital, and the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan announced the publication of a study exploring whether Primary Healthcare Professionals asking their patients about the pets in the family would positively impact communication to gather clinically relevant information and improve patient care. “Results of our survey show that asking about pets in the family is an easy and effective way to build trust with a patient, strengthening the patient-provider therapeutic alliance,” said Kate Hodgson, DVM, MHSc, CCMEP, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto. “When healthcare providers learn about the pets in patients’ lives, they are also developing an understanding about specific aspects of their patients’ environment and social history that can improve the delivery of healthcare.” “Having an exam-room conversation about companion animals helps healthcare providers learn important information about patients’ lifestyle and home life which can positively influence the way they evaluate and treat their patients,” said Alan Monavvari, MD, Chief of Family Medicine, MHSc, CCFP, CHE, CPHQ, at Markham Stouffville Hospital. Dr. Hodgson and Dr. Monavvari, along with co-authors Marcia Darling, BSc and Dr. Douglas Freeman, DVM, PhD, DipACT, analyzed results of a baseline and follow-up survey of 225 healthcare professionals asking about prevalence of patients living with pets, the health impact of pets, and influences on patient communication. Results revealed that patients are more open to talking to their healthcare providers about their pets, revealing clinically relevant information about how they live. Baseline and final surveys measured awareness of pets in patients’ families, assessment of determinants of health, impact on rapport with patients, and patient care. A sign test assessed difference in scores using repeated-measures...
LifeLearn Animal Health Supports Human-Animal Bond Research
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) announced today that LifeLearn Animal Health has become an official supporter of HABRI and its research on the mutually beneficial health benefits of companion animals. “LifeLearn is proud to become a HABRI supporter,” said Randy Valpy, President and CEO of LifeLearn. “The bond between people and their pets has been shown to influence the care that pet owners provide for their pets. So, supporting HABRI aligns with LifeLearn’s core commitment to advance animal health and education worldwide.” “LifeLearn is a leader in delivering innovative, trusted, and expert-vetted education resources for both veterinary teams and pet owners, which is what makes them such a good fit for a HABRI partnership,” said Steven Feldman, HABRI Executive Director. “LifeLearn can spread the word to key audiences about the strong connection between human and animal health.” HABRI research shows that when pet owners are educated about scientific research on the health benefits of pets, 92% say they are more likely to maintain their pet’s health, including keeping up with vaccines and preventative medicine. Additionally, 88% of pet owners are more likely to provide their pet with quality nutrition and 66% are less likely to skip visits to the veterinarian’s office when educated on the science behind the health benefits of pet ownership. “By creating education platforms that make it easier for people to communicate within the animal health profession, LifeLearn is making an important contribution towards strengthening bonds and improving lives on both ends of the leash,” Feldman added. About LifeLearn Animal Health Celebrating 25 years of continuing innovation and excellence, LifeLearn Inc. provides education and communications products and services to the veterinary profession, animal health organizations, and pet service businesses. LifeLearn’s award-winning competencies in digital media, combined with longstanding veterinary...