A recent study conducted by the University of South Australia points towards the positive impact of trained therapy dogs on autistic children and their parents. The study found that the presence of therapy dogs helped families with autistic children to explore more places and engage in new experiences. Something as simple as going to a new place – be it a restaurant, park etc – doesn’t seem that challenging. But ask a family with an autistic member, they will tell you about the challenges.
“Impulsive and unpredictable behaviour is a feature of autism and taking children out of their usual environment is often too stressful for both child and parent,” said Dr Shelley Wright, a University of South Australia researcher and qualified occupational therapist.
Over to the study findings
The study findings are based on interviews conducted with eight families with autistic children who were paired with an autism assistance dog.
Once the families had the autism assistance dog for more than a year, they felt confident to travel 20 kilometres further from home and visited 8.5 more places on an average. As the dog helped the child to feel calmer and safer it gave families the confidence to venture out more as compared to before.
The autism assistance dog offered more freedom to young children with severe autism, who would otherwise be strapped to a pram when outside home. There were also fewer incidents of meltdown as children sought their assistance dog when they felt overwhelmed. Goes without saying that the assistance dogs gave children the joy of companionship.
Also read: 3 life lessons that dogs teach kids
“A new finding from this study was the sense of freedom and peace of mind stemming from the dog sleeping with the child, improving sleep for the family as a whole and alerting the parents when the dog woke up and, in one case, was having a seizure,” Dr Wright added.
The study has been published in Health and Social Care Journal and the excerpt has been carried in New Medical Life Sciences.
Note: This article is meant for information and awareness only and should not be treated as medical opinion.