Horses, Dogs, Cats, Rabbits, Birds, Fish, Guinea Pigs, Dolphins

Is animal assisted therapy really the cat’s meow? asks the June 2008 Scientific American and takes a hard look at the use of dolphins, dogs (whose benefits as therapy animals for autistic children have been more and more noted), and other animals (a topic also under discussion with the US Department of Justice):

To show that AATs [animal assisted therapy] work, however, researchers must demonstrate that animals produce enduring effects on people’s psychological health, not merely short-term changes in mood, such as pleasure, relaxation or excitement.

So if school districts can just approve therapy/service animals being allowed in the classroom with autistic students for long enough, maybe it’ll be possible to demonstrate and document such “enduring effects”……

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    • http://letitbeautism.blogspot.com/ Bonnie

      I have to say that from my own experience, my son has never really connected to any animal. They had therapy dogs at school that would visit the entire school, and he actually mentioned one of them in passing but never really seeks out attention from animals. He does love riding horses though!

    • http://actionforautism.co.uk mike stanton

      To show that AATs [animal assisted therapy] work, however, researchers must demonstrate that animals produce enduring effects on people’s psychological health, not merely short-term changes in mood, such as pleasure, relaxation or excitement.

      This sort of attitude really annoys me. Why cannot something be worthwhile because it elicits short term changes in mood? I teach children with really flat affect. Any change is worthwhile if the child enjoys it at the time.

    • Regan

      I agree with Mike S.
      Pleasure and relaxation, and excitement (which I think falls under the umbrella of “behavioral activation”) seem to be significant goals in psychological health.
      (FWIW, the public comment period about the proposed changes are open until August 18.)

    • Roger

      I must say,as someone with autism,it was not a dog,that first taught me to have love and empathy, for another creature.It was an all-white traditional Persian cat,named Cotton,that did it for me,when I was thirteen years old.

      Traditional Siamese are even better.I have always had at least two of three since,the oldest has just turned eighteen.They are more loving, more loyal,and more demanding of attention than most dogs,so they DO keep you engaged.

      It was not until,two years ago,though,that I found my first dog,that acts like a true autism assistance dog,without any real training.She is an English Springer Spaniel,who I found as a stray,a few months before my meningitis,which led to my most recent autistic regression.

      She has also been a great help to a spitz mix I found this year,who showed a lot of autistic traits himself. Stereotypy,destructive behavior,avoiding eye contact,and becoming frantic,and panicky when touched.

    • Regan

      Does anyone know what the outcome is from the proposed rule change?

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    • Ben