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Can Therapy Dogs Help Kids With Autism?

The West Coast Truth

User ID: 11438968
02/26/2013 11:05 AM

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Can Therapy Dogs Help Kids With Autism?
For children with autism, trained dogs may offer not only a furry friend, but some therapeutic benefits, too, a new research review finds. There is a "substantial body of evidence" that dogs act as "social catalysts," even encouraging adults to be a little friendlier to each other, said senior researcher Francesca Cirulli, of the National Institute of Health in Rome, Italy. And the few studies that have focused on kids with autism suggest the same is true for them.

People have long turned to animals as a way to help with health conditions or disabilities -- either as part of formal therapy or to offer everyday assistance (such as guide dogs for the blind).

In some cases, "therapy" or "service" dogs are called into action to help children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) -- a group of developmental brain disorders that hinder a child's ability to communicate and interact socially. ASDs range from the severe cases of "classic" autism to the relatively mild form called Asperger's syndrome.

In the United States, it's estimated that about one in 88 children has some form of autism.

Yet there has been little research into whether trained dogs actually benefit those kids. The good news is, the existing evidence is promising, according to the new review, published in the February issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

However, "it is early to draw final conclusions," said Cirulli.

Specifically, Cirulli's team found six published studies of dogs' effects on children with an autism spectrum disorder. Four of them looked at therapy dogs -- dogs that therapists use during formal sessions to help children settle in, get engaged and be more open to communicating.

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User ID: 1529717
United States
02/26/2013 11:09 AM

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Re: Can Therapy Dogs Help Kids With Autism?
i worked for years with autistic children. a therapy dog came to visit once a week. it was nice for them. but these beautiful children need much more than a dog to heal from the vaccine damage done to them.

User ID: 28582441
United States
02/26/2013 11:24 AM
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Re: Can Therapy Dogs Help Kids With Autism?
Went with my husband to his audiologists office last year and they had a 12 yr old autistic boy also in the office. He was attended by his mother and a beautiful part lab dog. We got to talking, and the dog is an assistance dog, trained to keep the boy calm. He goes to school with the boy and spends the whole day with him.

Evidently they really think the world of the dog, and the kid is doing better. I don't think he'll ever be 'cured' but this makes him much more likely to continue with his education. Not to mention that the dog gets other kids to interact with him, and not treat him like a 'weirdo'.



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