You’ve seen them in movies, read about them in books and heard of them from family and friends – the dogs, widely recognized as man’s closest companions.

For centuries, they have been a staunch ally to humans, bestowing upon us their love and devotion, providing protection and a unique kind of intuition.

With an astonishing capacity for sensing danger, coupled with unwavering loyalty and unconditional love, these animals have become an integral part of our lives. Recently, however, dogs have been used for therapeutic effects, particularly as a treatment approach for autistic children. They can improve socio-emotional & communication skills among individuals facing difficulties in these areas.

What is an Autism Therapy Dog

For those asking what Autism Therapy Dogs are, they are specially trained canines that offer comfort and support to an individual who has been diagnosed with autism. These dogs possess a calm yet alert demeanor, which allows them to be sensitive to the signs of distress that their handler may display in the presence of others. They are taught to provide reassuring pressure such as leaning into their handler or putting their head on their handler’s lap during moments of high anxiety.

Research on Dog Autism Therapy

Professor Esther Ben-Itzchak & her team conducted a research study exploring the efficacy of dog therapy in children with autism. The study aimed to determine the effects of a specialized dog-training program on adaptive skills, overall autism severity and anxiety. The team sampled 73 participants with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the majority of whom were male 61 & female 12 with an age range of 2:10 to 7:6 years (average age 4:10 ± 1:0). In other words, the age of the sample children was between 2 to 7 years old and the majority of them four years.

The Aim of the Research and Procedure

The research aimed to compare two groups; thus, the participants were divided into two. Both cohorts underwent the same intervention: a tailored canine-training program in which one group received the intervention during the first semester while other in the second. This program was administered twice weekly over four months in both cases, though within the school setting.

The Outcome of The Research

The Results were positive. The children showed significant improvement in adaptive and interaction capabilities than their counterparts. The second group who underwent intervention during the second half of the year displayed improvements in both communication and socialization adaptive abilities.

They did not show these abilities in the first half of the year; they only showed these gains after dog training intervention had been implemented in the second half.

Implication of the Results

While further research remains to be done, these results suggest positive implications for incorporating canine therapy into the existing treatment repertoire of autistic children. It appears that dogs may possess the potential to be an effective model for socio-relational conduct, providing noteworthy upgrades in socialization skills when used together with special education programs.

Discuss with your child’s doctor how you can implement a tailored therapy like the one used in this study. It can serve as a supplement for your child on top of regular treatment.

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