Role of service dogs for two children with autism spectrum disorder
Waldie, Jennifer Dawn
Master of Education
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This qualitative study investigated the role of service dogs for two children with autism spectrum disorder. The participants in this study were eight adults who all had direct and continuing interaction with a service dog team. Six themes emerged following an analysis of the qualitative data: (a) safety - the service dogs helped the children avoid dangerous situations; (b) anxiety - the service dogs were seen as a calming influence; (c) normalizing effects - the service dogs assisted in allowing families to engage in activities outside the home; (d) communication — the service dogs helped to encourage the children to speak and interact with others; (e) friendship - the service dogs provided a constant source of friendship for the children; and (f) educating the school community - service dogs for autism are still a relatively rare phenomenon, and as such it is important that parents, students and teaching staff are all given the necessary information so that implementation and transitions run smoothly. Although service dogs are not a cure for autism, all of the participants in this study strongly believed that the service dog was a beneficial and useful tool for children with autism spectrum disorder.