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Canine-assisted occupational therapy for children on the autism spectrum: Parents' perspectives

By J. R. Hill, J. Ziviani, C. Driscoll

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Abstract

INTRODUCTION: Canine-assisted therapy is thought to facilitate the engagement of children on the autism spectrum within therapy sessions. There is limited research, however, about how canine-assisted occupational therapy with children on the autism spectrum enhances their engagement in therapy and therapy outcomes. The aim of this study was to gain the perspectives of parents who observed and participated in occupational therapy sessions, with canine assistance, with their children on the autism spectrum. METHOD: This study was guided by a qualitative interpretive description design. A total of 10 parents participated in one semi-structured interview to describe their experience of canine-assisted occupational therapy with their child. Inductive thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. RESULTS: Four themes emerged which described parents' experiences of canine-assisted occupational therapy with their children on the autism spectrum, these were: therapist qualities, goal-directed (canine-assisted) therapy, emotional safety, and therapy engagement. Parents described that the inclusion of the therapy dog appeared to provide emotional safety within the sessions facilitating rapport building between their child and the therapist. However, parents indicated that the inclusion of the therapy dog alone was not sufficient to facilitate therapy engagement for their children. The skills and qualities of the therapist as well as the provision of goal-directed therapy were considered essential for children's engagement. CONCLUSION: The findings from this study contribute to our understanding of the impact of canine-assisted occupational therapy for children on the autism spectrum. This sparsely researched area requires more evaluation to ensure best practice canine-assisted occupational therapy for children on the autism spectrum.

Publication Title Aust Occup Ther J
ISBN/ISSN 0045-0766
DOI 10.1111/1440-1630.12659
Language eng
Notes 1440-1630Hill, Jessica RachelORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2650-455XZiviani, JennyDriscoll, CarlieJournal ArticleAustraliaAust Occup Ther J. 2020 Mar 22. doi: 10.1111/1440-1630.12659.
Author Address School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Qld, Australia.
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Tags
  1. Animal-assisted therapies
  2. Autism
  3. Children
  4. Occupational Therapy
  5. parents