New Research Shows Dogs Improve Social Skills for Children with Autism

Green Chimneys - dog in social skills training

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) recently announced the publication of a study that explored the effectiveness of an animal-assisted social skills intervention for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

The research was conducted by Green Chimneys, a therapeutic school and treatment center for children facing social, emotional and behavioral challenges.

Dr. Joanna Becker, the study’s principal investigator, 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.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

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.

For more information and to read about the innovative research projects HABRI has funded, visit their website. To learn more about Green Chimneys, visit their website here.

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