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Animal-Assisted Intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorder

By Marguerite E. O'Haire, Noémie A. Guérin, Alison Claire Kirkham, Courtney L. Daigle

Category Reports

Approximately 1 in 68 children in the United States has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD; Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 2014). There is no cure for ASD; therefore, current treatment efforts focus on behavior management and social skill development. The inclusion of animals in ASD treatment has been suggested as an effective way to enhance social functioning and to ameliorate social stress and anxiety.

Nearly one in four children with ASD has participated in some form of Animal-Assisted Intervention (Christon, Mackintosh, & Myers, 2010). This practice is currently being used by psychologists, social workers, and occupational therapists who treat ASD. A variety of animal species participate, including dogs, horses, and small animals such as guinea pigs. Yet despite the prevalence of Animal-Assisted Intervention for ASD, the empirical study of its use is only just emerging. This brief summarizes the latest literature on animals and autism, with an overview of currently documented outcomes as well as gaps in knowledge for further research.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date June 2015
Series Title HABRI Central Briefs
Pages 8
Language English
Institution Purdue University
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal-assisted activities
  2. Animal-assisted interventions
  3. Animal roles
  4. Autism
  5. HABRI Central Briefs
  6. Mammals
  7. Pet ownership
  8. Pets and companion animals