Animal-Assisted Activities for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Page Walker Buck & Angela Lavery

Graduate Social Work Department, West Chester University West Chester, PA 19383

This exploratory study was designed to investigate parental perceptions of animal- assisted activities for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In-depth interviews with 10 families provided insight into the possible mechanisms by which human-animal interactions impact socioemotional behaviors for children ASD. Parents suggested that interactions with animals are qualitatively different than interactions with humans allowing for enhanced communication and connection through reductions in anxiety and frustration. Bearing witness to these human-animal interactions and their concomitant impact on human-human interactions provided parents with feelings of happiness, optimism and hope.

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Keywords: animal assisted activities, Autism, Parenting
Posted in 2020, Volume 8, No. 1