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Date of Award
Bachelor of Science
PARENT REPORT ON THE IMPACT A SERVICE DOG HAS ON CHILDREN WITH AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER
Danielle Rock ‘16
Professor Molly Helt, PhD.
Previous research has shown pet ownership to be associated with increased social skills and prosocial behaviors for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) (Carlisle, 2014; Grandgeorge, Tordjman, Lazartigues, Lemonnier, Deleau, & Hausberger, 2012). The present study evaluates whether a child with ASD can bond with, or create a significant attachment to, a service dog, and, if so, whether parents will report that this bond has strengthened the child's social skills and been accompanied by an overall improved quality of life for child and family. Parents (n = 7) of children with ASD completed an online survey, quantifying the severity of their child’s autism symptoms at baseline (i.e. before acquiring the dog), measuring the child’s bond with their service dog, and exploring, via a set of qualitative questions, whether parents observed any change in their child’s social behaviors and overall quality of life after receiving the animal and having it for at least one year. Findings indicate that n = 6/7 of the children were capable of developing a significant bond with their service dog. In addition, all of the parents reported an increase in at least some of the child’s social behaviors and that the quality of family life had improved. Furthermore, there was a positive correlation between attachment and perceived change (r = .23, N = 7, p = .62), whereby, as attachment increased so did the parental perception of positive change in social skills and quality of life. It is our hope to elucidate the benefits of utilizing service animals as a therapeutic tool for the enhancement of social functioning and quality of life in children with ASD.
Rock, Danielle M., "Parent Report on the Impact a Service Dog has on Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder". Senior Theses, Trinity College, Hartford, CT 2016.
Trinity College Digital Repository, https://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/theses/582