Children with autism benefit from having a specially-trained dog

CC BY-NC-ND by Heartlover1717

CC BY-NC-ND by Heartlover1717

Researchers at University College Cork (UCC) say they have proven that children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can benefit from having a specially trained dog from a young age.

The research has been published by the British Medical Journal. Dr Louise Burgoyne of UCC’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, who is the Lead researcher, said there is a need to provide resources for specially-trained dogs.

“It is an anecdotally established fact, and there had been quite a bit of qualitative research done, but when the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind were chatting to us they said ‘we hear this all the time but it is never measured’ — so we measured it,”

The study analysed the responses of 80 parents with a dog and 84 from the waiting list for a dog.

Dr Burgoyne said the results indicated that families with a dog had an improved quality of life. The Irish Examiner report that the dog provides a calming and reassuring presence as well as providing a physical tether in outdoor environments adding to a child’s safety when outdoors.

Dr Burgoyne said of dog assistance

“Parents said that the public perception of a child [with ASD] is better with a dog.”

Dogs are trained by the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind in Cork City, but as demand has increased the waiting list for this year has already been closed.

The original article by Noel Baker in the Irish Examiner, can be read here