x

Find the Right Therapist

Find the Right Therapist

Advanced Search | Don't show me this again.

 

Bringing Animal-Assisted Interventions into Autistic Classrooms

 

Animal-assisted interventions have begun to gain recognition as viable and acceptable alternative therapy approaches for a variety of psychological conditions. Elderly people who experience isolation and loneliness benefit greatly when they get a pet. Likewise, equine therapy has been shown to greatly improve emotional expression in some people unable to exhibit their feelings through more traditional forms of treatment. Other research has demonstrated that bringing a family pet into the home of an autistic child increases their willingness to communicate and interact with the animal and family members. But to date, no research has assessed how children with autism (ASD) react when animals are present in the classroom setting.

Children with autism tend to have significant deficits, particularly in the area of communication. They have impaired ability to recognize and express emotions and are limited in their ability to interact with their peers and others. To see if they show improved communication with human-animal interaction (HAI), Marguerite E. O’Haire of the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia led a study involving 99 children. The participants were split into groups of three, each group consisting of two children without ASD (TD) and one with. The groups were monitored as they engaged in brief intervals of free play with toys and then with two guinea pigs.

O’Haire found that the children with ASD exhibited more communication, eye contact, and interaction to their peers and to adults when they were engaged with the animals compared to when they were allowed to play with the toys. In fact, the children with ASD not only demonstrated more outgoing behaviors; they also smiled more and made more eye contact than when they were given toys. Additionally, the TD children responded more assertively to the children with ASD in the presence of animals. O’Haire believes that HAI proved to create an environment that was non-threatening and less stressful to the children with ASD than the toy setting. She added, “Indeed, the current results indicate that animals may provide a more powerful stimulus than toys for encouraging positive affect in social contexts for children with ASD.” She hopes that the findings of this study encourage clinicians and teachers working with children with ASD to consider the benefits of incorporating HAI techniques.

Reference:
O’Haire, M.E., McKenzie, S.J., Beck, A.M., Slaughter, V. (2013). Social behaviors increase in children with autism in the presence of animals compared to toys. PLoS ONE 8(2): e57010. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057010

© Copyright 2013 by www.GoodTherapy.org - All Rights Reserved.

Sign up for the GoodTherapy.org Newsletter!
Get weekly mental health and wellness news and information sent straight to your inbox!

  • Find the Right Therapist
  • Join GoodTherapy.org - Therapist Only
Comments
  • Oswald April 24th, 2013 at 10:30 PM #1

    There have been many studies with animals and people with certain disorders. But what I like about this particular study is instead of looking at the interaction with the animal itself they have looked at how these children communicate with other people during and after their interaction with animals. So I guess it is pretty clear that interaction with animals is beneficial.There could be many reasons for this but I have personally seen my own child laugh and feel a lot better once I got him a pet when he was four years old.Maybe it is the innocence that kids share with animals but it helps and that is all that matters.

  • raquel April 25th, 2013 at 3:54 AM #2

    Pet therapy has proven to be very effective in many different demographics and populations so I am not surprised to learn that it was also useful when helping with autistic children as well.

  • FRED B April 25th, 2013 at 8:27 AM #3

    OH I JUST LOVE ANIMALS AND I SURE HOPE MY GRANDDAUGHTER CAN GET ONE AND TAKE IT TO SCHOOL SHE LOVES ANIMALS TOO. WELL I GUESS ALL KIDS DO. ANYWAY SHE’S GOT THE AUTISM PRETTY BAD AND I SURE HOPE AN ANIMAL CAN HELP HER AT SCHOOL. MAYBE THE OTHER KIDS. WILL BE NICER TO HER IF SHE HAS AN ANIMAL. MAYBE IT CAN BRIDGE THE GAP. BETWEEN HER AND THE OTHER KIDS. IT GIVES ME HOPE ANYWAY.

  • jordache April 25th, 2013 at 8:29 AM #4

    I’m friends with this girl on Facebook.

    Well, her kid’s Autistic and he got a service dog.

    But, it didn’t last long.

    I’m not sure exactly what happened but that dog didn’t stay with them long.

    Maybe I’ll message her to find out-curious to know what went on since it sounds like such a great thing.

  • Judy April 25th, 2013 at 8:30 AM #5

    As a teacher, I find this research fascinating. I have several Autistic children in my special education self-contained classroom, and I think it would be worthwhile to try pet therapy with them. I’ll have to talk to my principal to see if she’d be onboard with giving it a try.

  • lana April 25th, 2013 at 8:36 AM #6

    Certainly ahve seen this with my daughter. who is autistic. she just adores animals but. she won’t really takl to people or nothing. but when her baby cousins come over. they all play together with our goats and then. well my daughter really comes alive then. its like sheh has something she and her baby cousins can do together. all at once. i hate those goats on most days but. i am grateful they gave my daughter and her baby cousins. a chance to play together. and understand each other.

  • Greer April 25th, 2013 at 8:40 AM #7

    My niece’s therapist uses various animals in their sessions. She has used a guniea pig, kitten, puppy, and rabbit before. My niece seemed to do the best with the puppy according to my brother. I guess there may be some problems with allergies in schools or maybe even liability of having animals if one of the children was bitten or scratched, but hopefully those things can be worked out so more autistic children can benefit rather than just the ones in private therapy.

  • PERRY April 25th, 2013 at 11:46 AM #8

    WONDER Y?CAUSE ANIMALS DONT JUDGE N ANIMALS DONT STAB LIKE HUMANS DO.THEY ARE NATURAL UNLIKENWHAT WE HAVE BECOME.THAT IS THE REASON THEY CAN GET AUTISTIC CHILDREN TO FEEL BETTER AND SMILE MORE.TO ME THERE IS NOTHING MORE VALUABLE THAN A CHILDS SMILE.AND IF ANIMALS ARE ABLE TO ACHIEVE THAT THEN THEY REALLY SHOULD BE LOOKED INTO.

  • Precious April 25th, 2013 at 1:00 PM #9

    Still have to be somewhat cautious because if a child is autistic this could backfire if he or she is afraid of animals that they don’t know

  • NT73 April 25th, 2013 at 11:46 PM #10

    I live all alone and with no children to visit me and the wife having passed years ago,my pet dogs give me great company.they are a relief in my otherwise lonely life.pets can help a variety of people-with loneliness and with disorders as shown here.and how can we forget equine therapy that has been around for quite sometime.animals are a great outlet for people with many different issues.this needs to be encouraged because there just isn’t any drawback.

  • lawson April 27th, 2013 at 12:03 PM #11

    I think that for a large majority of people their pets are a source of great comfort and solace. I think that this same thing would be true if you bring the animals into a classroom of kids who maybe need a little more love and affection than what they sometimes receive. Animals are a great way to give comfort to someone and also let them shower that on a pet that will accept this unconditionally. I think that this is an awesome idea and really hope that there is an educational system out there womewhere who can really embrace this and let this be something that they take positive advantage of in the classroom.

  • Trav April 29th, 2013 at 5:01 AM #12

    Dogs are so good, I even saw a story just a while ago that the different airports with all kinds of delays are using them to help keep travelers who are having to wait in a better mood!

Leave a Reply

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of GoodTherapy.org's Terms and Conditions of Use.

 

 

* = Required fields

Find the Right Therapist

Advanced Search | Browse Locations

Content Author Title

Recent Comments

  • kelli: i have a 45r old brother who lives with my mom. he has pancreatitis from drinking and is tremendous amount of pain each day. dr gave him...
  • Laurie: Dear Ryan, it’s no wonder you’ve had depression. First, don’t blame yourself. There are evil people in the world. I turn...
  • hudson: Sorry but I only think that education can make things better, not worse. People will believe what they want to believe no matter what the...
  • Jacquetta: so many programs that go underutilized every year for college freshmen- are they choosing not to use them or is the communication that...
  • Danna: The long and the short of it is that lack of sleep is harmful to any of us, especially children who are the least equipped to deal with it....