New Research to Study Impact of a Service Dog Training Program for Children with Autism and their Families | HABRI

New Research to Study Impact of a Service Dog Training Program for Children with Autism and their Families

Human Animal Bond Research Institute Awards Grant to University of Missouri

Washington, D.C. (November 1, 2022) — The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) announced funding for a new research project to evaluate the impact of a service dog training program and service dog matching on autistic children and their families. This grant was awarded to Gretchen Carlisle, Ph.D., at the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction, University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine.

One in 44 children in the United States is estimated to be born with autism spectrum disorder. Autistic children may have differences in social interaction and communication, and may also struggle with comorbid conditions such as anxiety. Behavioral care and supportive interventions are key to aiding autistic children and their families. Scientific research demonstrates the benefits of dog ownership for autistic children and their families can include increased social skills and reduced family stress, yet there is a lack of research on the potential benefits of service dogs for this population.

“Service dogs represent a relatively new yet increasingly popular approach for assisting families that include an autistic child,” said the study’s Principal Investigator, Dr. Carlisle. “This research will further our understanding of the impact of these dogs on the health and wellbeing of autistic children and their families.”

Preliminary research conducted by Dr. Carlisle highlights the importance of families viewing their pet dogs as a good match with their children, for the families to experience benefits. Service dogs, with a high level of training and predictable calm temperament, are theorized to be more likely to be accepted as a good match by a family that includes an autistic child. This study will use a cross-sectional survey of parents of autistic children. Data collected will be used to compare those who are on a waitlist to receive a service dog, those who are in the training process to be matched with a service dog, and those who are already matched with a service dog. A longitudinal study will also be conducted following parents of autistic children as they progress from the waitlist through the training process and up to one year after matching with a service dog.

“We expect to find autistic children and their families will benefit from participating in a service dog training program and being matched with a service dog, including displaying reduced symptoms of autism, lower anxiety, and improved family function,” explained Dr. Carlisle. “It is our hope this research can be used to inform service dog training organizations and parents considering a service dog for their autistic child.”

“More data demonstrating the benefits of service dogs for autistic individuals will empower families to make more informed decisions regarding how to support the health and wellbeing of their family,” said Steven Feldman, President of HABRI. “HABRI is proud to fund this project from the University of Missouri, which we hope will provide new evidence supporting the human-animal bond as a source of comfort and support for autistic children.”

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.

Contact

Logan Trautman

logan@inspireprgroup.com

412.915.4038

###

Press Releases
New Research to Study Impact of Therapy Dog-Assisted Forensic Interviews with Children

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and Pet Partners announced today a grant to the University of Toledo for a new study, Implementation of Canine-Assisted Forensic Interviews with Children. This lab-based study will examine the effect of the presence of a therapy dog on the quantity and quality of children’s event reports. “From countless anecdotal evidence, we know that a visit from a registered Pet Partners therapy dog can put a smile on a child’s face, no matter what they are going through,” said Annie Peters, President and CEO of Pet Partners. “Scientific research to validate the efficacy of therapy dogs in forensic interviewing has the potential to not only provide more children with much needed comfort and emotional support, but to also promote justice for such a vulnerable population.” “The overarching goal of the study is to provide evidence-based guidelines regarding how and when to incorporate therapy dogs in legal settings,” said the study’s principal investigator, Kamala London, PhD, University of Toledo. “We expect that this study will help support therapy dog-assisted forensic interviews as a safe, affordable, and widely available technique that may improve the accuracy and quality of event reports among maltreated children.” Only about 15% of all child maltreatment cases come to the attention of authorities. Among cases that do come forward, children may be reluctant to disclose traumatic experiences, particularly when those experiences involve family member perpetrators. Over the past decade, forensic and legal professionals have begun to incorporate dogs into their practices in an effort to build rapport and trust, and foster a warm, supportive environment for children. Despite the increase in practice, the effects of therapy dog-assisted forensic interviews have not been studied. This study will work to address this identified gap in human-animal interaction (HAI) research. 120 children age 6-9 will experience a...

Press Releases
New Research to Study Therapy Dog Visits for Elderly ICU Patients

The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Foundation today announced it has awarded a $6,000 grant to The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Nursing for a pilot research study, Biobehavioral Effects of Therapy Dog Visitation in Elderly Intensive Care Unit Patients, to investigate how brief visits from therapy dogs can reduce stress in older intensive care unit (ICU) patients. “Elderly patients who are admitted to the intensive care unit are at risk for anxiety that negatively affects physical health,” said primary researcher Sandra Branson, PhD, MSN, RN, Assistant Professor at the UTHealth School of Nursing. “Limited evidence suggests the effectiveness of therapy dog visits in improving these biological responses. We’re hoping this study will help fill the gap and potentially translate into regular practice in ICUs.” Further exploring the effects of therapy dogs on stress in elderly ICU patients, the study aims to provide research-based evidence proving the efficacy of brief, 10-minute therapy dog visits in improving stress associated with being in an ICU. The 18-month study will observe two groups of 10 elderly participants in the ICU; one group will receive a 10-minute therapy dog visits at random and the other will receive usual care without the visits. Patients’ psychosocial, endocrine, and inflammatory responses will be measured immediately before and after the 10-minute care session and compared between the two groups. It is predicted that participants who receive the therapy dog visits will show greater reductions in the measured responses. The results of this study could yield therapy dog visits as a regular, low-risk and low-cost treatment intervention for patients in the ICU. “HABRI’s grant to UTHealth will help advance the science that demonstrates the benefits of companion animals for disease recovery and healthy aging,” said HABRI Executive Director Steven Feldman. “The deployment of therapy...

HABRI