Interaction with a Therapy Dog Enhances the Effects of Social Story Method in Autistic Children

In: Society & Animals
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  • 1 Research Department of Autism Transilvania Association, Gheorghe, Romania
  • 2 Department of Special Education, Faculty of Psychology and Sciences of Education, Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania

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Abstract

This study explored the effects of a combination between two methods that have proved to enhance the social abilities of autistic children—Social Story and Animal Assisted Therapy. The main hypothesis of this investigation was that a naturally enriched social environment (i.e., the presence of a therapy dog) improves the effectiveness of Social Story method. Two social skills were targeted: (1) the ability to greet a social partner and (2) the ability to introduce oneself to a social partner, by using a standard single-subject research design. Three preschool autistic children were included in the study. The dependent variables were the frequency of the appropriate social interactions relevant to the target social skill, the level of prompt needed to provide the expected social response, and the frequency of social initiations. The presence of the therapy dog while reading the social story increased the frequency of social initiations and decreased the level of social prompt needed to elicit social responses from children with autism.

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