Thesis Title

Tails as Teachers: Animal-Assisted Therapy and Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Graduation Date

Spring 2002

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Document Form


Degree Name

Master of Science

Program Name


Program Director

Madalienne F. Peters, EdD


Building on the foundation of past research that highlights the benefits of animal- assisted therapy with a variety of populations, such as the institutionalized, the developmentally disabled and geriatric populations, this study investigated the potential benefits of animal-assisted therapy for a child with a diagnosis of autism. According to enrollment data from the California Department of Education autism is on the rise (California Department of Education, 2001). Autism is a spectrum disorder that manifests itself through observable behaviors. The “typical” symptomology consists of language and social impairments. The study was divided into two research conditions: 1) a “no dog” condition, and 2) a “dog” condition.” The child participated in three videotaped sessions, all of which were coded for spontaneous speech utterances and child initiated social interactions. The results indicated a significant increase in social behavior and spontaneous language production during the “dog” condition in comparison to the “no dog” condition. This study supports the need for future research investigating the potential benefits of using animals as a tool to enhance social behavior and language production in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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