Monday, April 1, 2013

Animal Therapy for ASD

Since CDC (Centers for Disease control and Prevention) in 1992 started tracking Autism spectrum disorder, numbers have increased greatly. Since 2008, statistics proved that 1 in 88 children and 1 in 54 boys were diagnosed.
One in four parents with children who are diagnosed with ASD said in a survey that they have tried therapy involving animals.
Drugs and hormone injections have proved often over the years that it is not reliable although behavioral therapy with one on one work has appeared to benefit younger children.

Children in one study with ASD showed positive reactions when they were presented with pictures with animals as to when they were presented with pictures of human or other objects. Another reason why animal therapy may work positively is that animals may stimulate different senses and emotions to people who have ASD and allow them to develop advanced sensori motor skills. It is also known and proven that having animals can reduce stress.

They way animal therapy works for people with ASD is by having sessions for at least twelve weeks. It is by one on one. The patient learns about the animal, practices animal care, play games with animal themes and when involving horses, assist in riding the horses. The activities' goals are to increase communication skills socially and their sensor motor skills. This is to have reduce self injury, repetition, and have less aggressive behaviors.

Marguerite O'Haire M.E. went over fourteen studies comparing animal therapy both with and without animals. When the animal was present, the patients communicated more, were very satisfied, and presented a calm behavior. However, there is no clear evidence yet that it may benefit the patients in the long run. This is because the severity of the ASD matters with patients too.

I wondered if the therapy could work long term and if having an animal like a dog affected the patients when they are actually living with the animal. This could be a long term research with the households with ASD patients who have dogs or cats and household that do not have an animal.

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