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Dogs Improve Quality of Life for Families of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

April 8, 2013

According to a recent MU study, families of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders believe owning a dog has impacted their household in a positive manner.  It appears that pet dogs may have a calming effect and provide comfort during the stressful times that frequently occur in these families. Additionally, dogs trained to be service or therapy dogs can help autistic children in their school and social lives.

This interdisciplinary research has been collected and monitored using social media. The study is a collaborative effort of Mizzou Advantage’s One Health, One Medicine and Media For the Future initiatives.

Story by MU News Bureau 

Families who have children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are often faced with significant challenges, such as caregiver burden, sleep deprivation, and psychological distress. Because of these difficulties, ownership of pet and service dogs by families with ASD children has received growing attention as a way to provide benefits for these children and their families. However, there has been little research on how dog ownership affects families with ASD children. Now, through a novel method of monitoring social media, interdisciplinary researchers from the University of Missouri have found that families with ASD children regard dog ownership as having a positive impact on their households. Rebecca Johnson, director the MU Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction (ReCHAI) and professor in the MU Sinclair School of Nursing and College of Veterinary Medicine, says these findings further indicate the positive effects animal interactions can have on children with autism.

“We are beginning to learn how companion animals may provide comfort and unconditional love to families of children with autism, and to the children themselves,” Johnson said. “This may be particularly important given the very high stress levels of these families.  Pet dogs can have a calming effect in stressful situation as has been shown widely in research.”  See more…