Washington, D.C. (March 14, 2019) — March 14, 2019– The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), the Children’s Hospital Colorado and the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus today announced the publication of a pilot study exploring the benefits of animal-assisted activities (AAA) for psychiatrically hospitalized youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
“Individuals with autism spectrum disorder have difficulties with communication and socialization skills, and often experience difficulties with emotion dysregulation, which can lead to more intensive intervention services such as psychiatric hospitalization,” said researcher and lead author, Monique Germone, PhD, BCBA, University of Colorado, Children’s Hospital Colorado. “Psychiatric hospital environments can be particularly overwhelming and stressful environments for individuals with ASD, and animal-assisted activity is one of the most widely used complementary forms of treatment in hospital settings. We chose to build on existing science that shows children with ASD demonstrate significantly more positive social-communication behaviors when an animal is present.”
Dr. Germone, along with study’s principal investigator Robin Gabriels, PsyD, professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine recruited participants ages 4-17 years old from the inpatient and partial hospitalization unit of a specialized psychiatric unit for pediatric patients with ASD. A crossover study design, participants attended both the experimental (AAA) and control (novel toy) conditions. Both group sessions occurred in a classroom setting and began with quiet play, followed by social skills group and then participants engaging in either the experimental or control condition. The 10-minute experimental sessions included therapy dog-handler teams. The researchers captured behavioral data via video and used the OHAIRE coding system designed to quantify social communication, and interactions with animals and control objects. Categories of social and communication behaviors were coded, including talking, gesturing, looking, touching, showing affection and being prosocial.
“Results of our study suggest that animal-assisted activities with a dog may promote social-communication behaviors in psychiatrically hospitalized youth with autism spectrum disorder,” added Dr, Gabriels. “This study supports previous findings that show the benefits of incorporating therapy dogs to improve social-communication behaviors that can then facilitate treatment engagement for children with ASD.”
Significant differences were observed between the AAA experimental and control conditions with respect to the participants’ interactions with the dog versus the toy. Specifically, results from this study revealed that participants displayed more social and communication behaviors of talking, use of gestures, and socially directed eye gaze when engaged in the AAA experimental condition. Also, when participants were engaged in the AAA experimental condition, they displayed a higher rate of positive facial expressions, such as smiling and laughing, and twice the number of positive vocalizations (e.g. “this is fun”) compared to the toy control condition.
“The results of this pilot research will help pave the way for the increased deployment of dogs and other animals in the therapeutic treatment of children with autism and other developmental disorders,” said HABRI Executive Director, Steven Feldman. “HABRI is proud to support this important research on the positive impacts of the human-animal bond in the treatment and care of children with autism.”
Germone, Monique M., et al. “Animal-assisted activity improves social behaviors in psychiatrically hospitalized youth with autism.” Autism (2019): 1362361319827411.
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 Children’s Hospital Colorado
Children’s Colorado is a leading pediatric network 100 percent dedicated to the health and well-being of children, adolescents and young adults. Consistently acknowledged as one of the nation’s top pediatric hospitals by U.S. News & World Report, Children’s Colorado is recognized nationally and internationally for its medical, research, education and advocacy programs. It is at the forefront of research in childhood disease and pioneering treatments that are shaping the future of pediatrics, as well as offering everyday care for kids throughout Colorado and surrounding states. Founded in 1908, Children’s Colorado offers a full spectrum of family-centered care at its urgent, emergency and specialty care locations throughout Metro Denver and Southern Colorado, including its location on the Anschutz Medical Campus. For more information, visit www.childrenscolorado.org or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
More Press Releases
Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Announces 2016 Research Grants
The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Foundation today announced funding for four research grants focused on the effects of human-animal interaction on human health, including outcomes for children undergoing hospital procedures; classroom learning; and the link between the health of pet owners and the health of their pets. “The human-animal bond is an essential element of human wellness,” said Bob Vetere, President and CEO of the American Pet Products Association and President of the HABRI Board of Trustees. “HABRI-funded research projects are scientifically documenting how pets improve the health of people, pets and the communities where they live.” For 2016, HABRI has awarded a total of $175,000 to the following recipients and research projects: Zenithson Y. Ng, DVM, M.S. (University of Tennessee, Knoxville): The Effect of Animal-Assisted Intervention on Preoperative Anxiety and Dose of Sedation in Children Piers C. A. Barker, M.D (Duke University): Impact of Animal Assisted Therapy on Quality, Completeness, and Patient and Parental Satisfaction in Children Undergoing Clinical Echocardiography Amy McCullough, PhD (American Humane Association): Pets in the Classroom (PIC): What are the Social, Behavioral, and Academic Effects of Classroom Pets for Children, 8-10 years? Charles Faulkner, PhD (Lincoln Memorial University): Measuring the Impact of a Mutually Reinforcing Relationship Between Pet Owners and Their Pets “We know from previous scientific research that animal-assisted therapy is effective in alleviating anxiety in hospital patients,” said Margaret Gruen, DVM, PhD, DACVB of Duke. “This is one of the first studies to focus on the potential of animal-assisted therapy to impact a clinical outcome. If results are successful, this study could potentially add non-pharmacologic, low-cost options to improve diagnostic quality for children having medical imaging procedures and could encourage broader use of therapy dogs in other pediatric...
Healthy Paws Foundation Joins Forces with the Human Animal Bond Research Institute
Healthy Paws Foundation, the charitable arm funded in part by Healthy Paws Pet Insurance – the #1 customer-rated provider of insurance for dogs and cats— and the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) have joined forces; Healthy Paws Foundation has made a contribution to support the HABRI’s research on the mental and physical health benefits of owning a pet. Healthy Paws will sit alongside other leaders in the pet care community on the HABRI Steering Committee. This commitment focuses on creating awareness of “the pet effect”, including health benefits for people and improved health and welfare for pets. Scientific evidence shows that companion animals can help prevent cardiovascular disease, reduce depression, and provide support for conditions ranging from Alzheimer’s to autism spectrum disorder to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). HABRI reports that pet ownership saves $11.7 billion in U.S. healthcare costs. The human-animal bond is also good for pets. A recently-published survey by HABRI found that when pet parents are educated on the scientific research on the health benefits of pets, 89 percent said they would be more likely to take better care of their pets. “We believe in the work HABRI is doing. Their research tells us that companion animals have a positive health impact; so while pets are an important part of the family, they’re also significant to our wellbeing,” said Rob Jackson, Chief Pet Protector at Healthy Paws. “It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, too – the knowledge that a human-animal bond increases their own health and wellness motivates pet parents to take better care of their pets. This means providing the best pet medical care is of utmost importance.” “Healthy Paws is a leader in the growing pet insurance business because they recognize the powerful human-animal bond that makes pets part of our families,” said Steven Feldman, HABRI Executive Director. “Research shows that when we take better care...
New Survey Reveals 97% of Doctors Believe There Are Health Benefits to Owning a Pet
The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Foundation, today released the results of a first-of-its-kind survey detailing the views of family physician on the benefits of pets to human health. “Doctors and their patients really understand the human health benefits of pets, and they are putting that understanding into practice” said HABRI Executive Director Steven Feldman. “The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative funds research on the evidence-based health benefits on humananimal interaction, and this survey demonstrates that we are on the right track.” HABRI partnered with Cohen Research Group to conduct an online panel survey of 1,000 family doctors and general practitioners. This is the largest survey of its kind to explore doctors’ knowledge, attitudes and behavior regarding the human health benefits of pets. The 28-question survey was conducted in late August 2014 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1%. The physicians in the survey had a median of 18 years of practice experience. Among the survey’s key findings: Most doctors have successfully worked with animals in medicine. 69% have worked with them in a hospital, medical center, or medical practice to assist patient therapy or treatment. They report interactions with animals improve patients’ physical condition (88%), mental health condition (97%), mood or outlook (98%), and relationships with staff (76%). Doctors overwhelmingly believe there are health benefits to owning pets. 97% reported that they believe there were health benefits that resulted from owning a pet. The majority of doctors have recommended a pet to a patient. 60% of doctors interviewed have recommended getting a pet to a patient. 43% recommended the pet to improve overall health and 17% made the recommendation for a specific condition. Most doctors have seen their patients’ health improve as a result of pet ownership. 75% of physicians said they saw one or more of their patients overall health...