Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit

Not All Kids With Autism Will Benefit From Therapy Dogs

  • Updated
  • 0
Not All Kids With Autism Will Benefit From Therapy Dogs

MONDAY, Oct. 3, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- For many kids with autism, Rhett, a black Labrador retriever, has been a calming and comforting influence in his seven years as a therapy dog.

But parents shouldn't assume that a service pooch is the solution for every child on the autism spectrum, a new study finds. Not all kids with autism enjoy interacting with Rhett, a resident therapy dog at the University of Missouri's Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders.

This is the main message from a recent small study that sought to find if and when kids with autism respond to therapy dogs as a motivator to complete tasks and learn new skills.

“The key is to find out what motivates a child with autism, whether it’s playing with a therapy dog or a favorite toy,” said study author Emma Keicher. She is an applied behavior analyst at the center.

Clinics may have therapy dogs on staff to work with kids, and some families may look to adopt a service dog as a companion animal for a child with autism.

There are often long wait lists at organizations that train and place service dogs in homes of kids who have autism. “Before you bring a dog home, make sure your child enjoys playing with dogs,” Keicher said.

There can be many potential benefits of a therapy dog for some kids with autism, she said. “Therapy dogs can be trained to serve as anchors for kids who run away,” she said. In these scenarios, the dog sits down when the child tries to run off. “The dog may serve as a comfort source in difficult social settings,” Keicher added.

But these benefits are only realized if the child responds to and connects with the dog.

”Some kids may hit or kick the dog or don’t have a connection to the dog, and it can become too overwhelming for a family to care for the dog, and they may have to rehome it,” Keicher said.

Autism is a developmental disorder characterized by problems with social interaction, and restricted behaviors or interests. People on the autism spectrum may also have learning differences, movement problems and attention difficulties.

For the study, six boys with autism, aged 4 to 9, were told if they completed certain tasks their reward would be playtime with Rhett or some other form of entertainment, such as playing with toys.

Two boys enjoyed playing with Rhett far more than the toys, two were indifferent and mainly played with the toys, and two didn’t want to play with Rhett at all, the study findings showed.

The report was published online recently in Behavior Analysis in Practice.

There is a lot for a family of a child with autism to consider before working with or adopting a therapy dog, agreed Jack Scott, executive director of the Florida Atlantic University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, in Boca Raton.

Therapy dogs can be potentially life-saving for some kids with autism, said Scott, who was not involved in the new study.

Seizures are relatively common among people with autism.

“Children with very severe seizures are at risk for falling hard and dangerously, and there are dogs that are trained to recognize the early warning signs of seizures and alert someone to the likely onset of a seizure,” Scott said. Some therapy dogs can save kids with autism from drowning.

Dogs may also help kids with autism make friends on the playground, he added.

Scott's advice? “Visit friends and families with animals to see how your child responds before investing time and resources in a therapy animal,” he said.

“If you say don’t poke the dog and they don’t get that message, the level of supervision will have to be very close,” Scott explained.

Positive reinforcement — a recommended strategy for parenting a child with autism — is anything that encourages appropriate and desired behavior. Playing with dogs is just one potential form. Other types of positive reinforcement include smiles, tickles, high fives, praise or access to fun activities, Scott said. “Find what works best for your child.”

More information

Autism Speaks has a list of organizations that train and place service dogs for people with autism.

SOURCES: Emma Keicher, applied behavior analyst, Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, University of Missouri, Columbia; Jack Scott, PhD, executive director, Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, and associate professor, department of special education, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton; Behavior Analysis in Practice, April 2022, online

0 Comments
0
0
0
0
0

Originally published on consumer.healthday.com, part of the TownNews Content Exchange.

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is making clear he wants to keep the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate in place to protect the health of the troops, as Republican governors and lawmakers press to rescind it. This past week more than 20 Republican governors wrote to President Joe Biden asking that the administration remove the mandate. They say it has hurt the U.S. National Guard’s ability to recruit troops. Congress may consider legislation this coming week to end the mandate as a requirement to gather enough support to pass this years’ defense budget, which is already two months late. Austin says the mandate has kept the forces healthy.

TUESDAY, Nov. 15, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the combination of tremelimumab (Imjudo) plus durvalumab (Imfinzi) and platinum-based chemotherapy for adult patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer with no sensitizing epidermal growth factor receptor mutation or anaplastic lymphoma kinase genomic tumor aberrations.

It's now a lot easier and cheaper for Americans to get hearing aids. The government recently began allowing the sale of hearing aids without a prescription. These over-the-counter hearing aids began hitting the market in October at prices that can be thousands of dollars lower than prescription hearing aids. They are for people with mild-to-moderate hearing problems — not those with more severe hearing loss. The Food and Drug Administration estimates that around 30 million people in the United States deal with hearing loss. Only about 20% of the people who could use a hearing aid seek help.

China's professional basketball league has fined former NBA star Jeremy Lin for making “inappropriate remarks” about quarantine facilities for his Chinese team. That comes as the government tries to suppress protests against anti-virus controls that are among the world's most stringent. More cities eased restrictions following protests last weekend in Shanghai and other areas in which some crowds called for President Xi Jinping to resign. The China Basketball Association says Lin was fined $1,400 for his remarks on social media about a hotel where his team stayed before a game. The news outlet The Paper said he complained about workout facilities. Phone calls to his team, the Loong Lions, weren't answered.

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 30, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- For patients with isolated distal deep venous thrombosis (DVT), six additional weeks of rivaroxaban after an initial six-week course of treatment reduces the risk for recurrent venous thromboembolism, according to a study published online Nov. 23 in The BMJ.

Indiana’s Republican attorney general has asked the state medical licensing board to discipline an Indianapolis doctor who has spoken publicly about providing an abortion to a 10-year-old rape victim who traveled from Ohio after its more-restrictive abortion law took effect. The complaint alleges Dr. Caitlin Bernard violated state law by not reporting the girl’s child abuse to Indiana authorities and violated patient privacy laws by telling a reporter about the girl’s treatment. That account sparked a national political uproar in the weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. Bernard maintains the girl’s abuse had already been reported to Ohio police before the doctor ever saw the child.

Listen now and subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | RSS Feed | Omny Studio

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

News Alerts

Breaking News