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Pet adoption triggers empathy in individuals with autism spectrum disorders


Alteration of social interactions is one of the characteristics of autism. Numerous strategies 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. Here, we evaluated the link between the presence or the adoption of pets in families with an individual with ASD and the changes in his or her prosocial behaviors. Of 260 individuals with autism, two groups of 12 individuals and two groups of 8 individuals were assigned to: - study 1 (pet adoption after age of 5 versus no pet) and - study 2 (pet versus no pet). Evaluation of social impairment was assessed at two time periods using the ADI-R algorithm and a parental questionnaire about their child-pet relationships. The results showed that 2 items changed positively between the age of 4 to 5 and time of assessment in the pet adoption group (study 1): ‘‘offering to share'' and ‘‘offering comfort''. Interestingly, these items reflect empathy. There seemed to be no significant changes for the other groups. The interactions between individuals with ASD and their pets were more reported in the situation of pet adoption than pet presence since birth. These findings open further lines of research on the impact of pet's presence or adoption in families with individual with ASD. Given the potential ability of individuals with ASD to develop empathy, related studies are needed to better understand the mechanisms involved in the development of such child-pet relationship.
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hal-01345081 , version 1 (13-07-2016)


  • HAL Id : hal-01345081 , version 1


Marine Grandgeorge, Sylvie Tordjman, Alain Lazartigues, Eric Lemonnier, Michel Deleau, et al.. Pet adoption triggers empathy in individuals with autism spectrum disorders. 13th International IAHAIO Conference: Human and animals: The inevitable bond, Jul 2013, Chicago, United States. ⟨hal-01345081⟩
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