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The Social Skills and Attachment to Dogs of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder


Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have deficits in social skills, and interaction with service dogs has been associated with increased social skills for children with ASD. In this telephone survey of 70 parents of children with ASD, children owning dogs had greater Mean scores for social skills, using the Social Skills Improvement System Rating Scale, while those with some type of pet (not excluding dogs) had significantly greater skills for subscale item “assertion”. Parents described their children as attached to their dogs. Children owning dogs completed the Companion Animal Bonding Scale, and reported strong bonding with dogs. These findings suggest children with ASD may bond with their dogs, and pet ownership may be associated with increased social skills.

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The author acknowledges the University of Missouri Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders for the use of their data set in recruitment. A grant to support this study was awarded from Sigma Theta Tau—Alpha Iota Chapter. This paper was prepared from the author’s doctoral dissertation, acknowledging the support of her dissertation committee members, Dr. Rebecca A. Johnson, Dr. Lawrence Ganong, Dr. Debra Gayer and Dr. Micah Mazurek. A poster presentation of the data was made at the Midwest Nursing Research Society conference in Chicago, Illinois on March, 2013.

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Correspondence to Gretchen K. Carlisle.

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Carlisle, G.K. The Social Skills and Attachment to Dogs of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 45, 1137–1145 (2015).

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  • Autism
  • Dogs
  • Children
  • Attachment
  • Social skills