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Does pet arrival in a family trigger prosocial skills in children with autism?

Abstract : Alteration of social interactions especially empathy – an important aspect of children’s social emotional development – is one of the characteristics of autistic disorders. Numerous strategies, supports or therapies are used to improve communication skills or at least to reduce social impairments. Animal-assisted therapies are used widely but their relevant benefits have never been scientifically evaluated. In the present study, we evaluated the association between the presence or arrival of pets in families with a child with autism and the changes in their social skills. Of 260 individuals with autism - on the basis of presence or absence of pets - two groups of 12 children and two groups of 8 children were assigned to: study 1 (pet arrival after age of 5 versus no pet) and study 2 (pet versus no pet), respectively. Evaluation of social impairment was assessed at two time periods using the 36-items ADI-R algorithm and a parental questionnaire about their child-pet interactions. Parents were not aware of our study – which was designed a posteriori- on the impact of pets at the time of assessment. The results showed that 2 of the 36 items changed positively between t0 (5 years of age) and t1 (time of assessment) in the pet arrival group (study 1): “offering to share” and “offering comfort”. Interestingly, these two items reflect two of empathy components. There seemed to be no significant changes in any item for the three other groups. The interactions between children and their pets were more – qualitatively and quantitatively - reported in the situation of pet arrival than pet presence since birth. These findings open further lines of research on the impact of pet’s presence or arrival in families with a child with autism. Given the potential ability of children with autism to develop empathy, related studies are needed to better understand the mechanisms involved in the development of such pet child relationship.
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https://hal-univ-rennes1.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-01344224
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Submitted on : Monday, July 11, 2016 - 2:46:19 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, January 9, 2020 - 4:08:04 PM

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  • HAL Id : hal-01344224, version 1

Citation

Marine Grandgeorge, Sylvie Tordjman, Alain Lazartigues, Eric Lemonnier, Michel Deleau, et al.. Does pet arrival in a family trigger prosocial skills in children with autism?. International Conference on Innovative Research In Autism, May 2012, Tours, France. ⟨hal-01344224⟩

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