The central aim of this research project was to evidence possible influences of relationships with animals on children with autistic disorders. To investigate this complex issue, we drew on multidisciplinary (ethological, psychological and child psychiatric) competences and used their different methodologies, i.e. clinical evaluation, questionnaires and observation under everyday and experimental conditions. I compared these data for children with autism to data for a control group of children developing typically. The results revealed that children with autism are receptive to their social environment, the development of their early language being correlated to their parents' education. In addition, pets can be considered as 'social' partners. Interactions between children with autism and their pets are varied and are influenced at the same time by the characteristics of both partners and by their social environment. Observations of interactions with pet dogs revealed that diagnosis did not influence significantly the behaviour of children towards their dog. However, dogs seem to interact less with children with autism than with other children. At the same time, a new experimental paradigm, the Strange Animal Situation, enabled me to study the behaviour of children encountering an unfamiliar animal. I could thus establish several general behavioural profiles stressing continuity between children developing typically and children with autism. In this experimental situation the attention of some children was biased towards human beings. Lastly, I found a link between the arrival of a pet in a family and the improvement of some of the social competences of children with autism. Thus by adopting a multidisciplinary approach, this thesis contributes to the understanding of relationships between children with autism and pets, and provides food for thought concerning animal-assisted interventions.
|Translated Title||The link to the animal makes it a social and cognitive recovery in children with autism?|
|Publisher||University of Rennes|
|Location of Publication||2 Rue du Thabor, 35065 Rennes, France|
|University||University of Rennes|
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