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Group Changes in Cortisol and Heart Rate Variability of Children with Down Syndrome and Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder during Dog-Assisted Therapy

By R. E. Griffioen, G. J. M. van Boxtel, T. Verheggen, M. J. Enders-Slegers, S. Van Der Steen

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Abstract

Dog-assisted therapy is hypothesized to lower stress in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and children with Down syndrome (DS), which may be visible on a physiological level. In this study, we measured heart rate variability (HRV) and salivary cortisol of 20 children with DS or ASD at the beginning and end of six weekly sessions of dog-assisted therapy. We found a decrease of cortisol levels during single sessions, but no overall effect after six sessions (six weeks). The effect of dog-assisted therapy on the increase of HRV could not be confirmed. This study is one of the first to use physiological measurements to test the effects of DAT.

Publication Title Children (Basel)
Volume 10
Issue 7
ISBN/ISSN 2227-9067 (Print)2227-9067
DOI 10.3390/children10071200
Author Address Department of Animal Assisted Interventions, Aeres University of Applied Sciences, De Drieslag 4, 8251 JZ Dronten, The Netherlands.Tilburg School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Tilburg University, Professor Cobbenhagenlaan, 5037 AB Tilburg, The Netherlands.Department of Psychology and Education, Open University The Netherlands, Valkenburgerweg 177, 6419 AT Heerlen, The Netherlands.Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences, University of Groningen, Grote Kruisstraat 2/1, 9712 TS Groningen, The Netherlands.
Additional Language English
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Tags
  1. Animal-assisted interventions
  2. Animal-assisted therapies
  3. Autism
  4. Cortisol
  5. Down Syndrome
  6. open access
  7. Stress
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  1. open access