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Review of current evidence and future directions in animal-assisted intervention for children with autism

By M. E. O'Haire

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Autism has been highlighted as a pressing public health issue that may be ameliorated through the inclusion of animals in autism treatment services, also known as animal-assisted intervention. Over the past 20 years, only a few studies have empirically examined the impact of therapeutic interactions with animals for individuals with autism. A review of the existing literature indicates that incorporating animals into autism treatment practices may provide a motivating stimulus for individuals with autism to enhance social functioning. However, more rigorous investigation is critical before widespread implementation can be adopted. In this review, I explore the current literature on animal-assisted intervention for autism, synthesise relevant findings for clinical practice and present targeted directions for future research.


Research suggests positive social functioning outcomes for some children with autism following human-animal interaction. The use of animal-assisted intervention and service animals appear to provide a valuable addition to current autism treatment practices and therefore are worthy of further investigation.

Date 2013
Publication Title OA Autism
Volume 1
Issue 1
Pages 6-10
ISBN/ISSN 2052-7810
Publisher OA Publishing (London)
Language English
Author Address School of Psychology, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia Email:
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal-assisted interventions
  2. Autism
  3. Human-animal interactions
  4. open access
  5. peer-reviewed
  6. Reviews
  1. open access
  2. peer-reviewed