About the Rutgers University Research Study on Animals & Autism

OUR STUDY: Parents Perception of their Autistic Child’s Behavior Following Interaction with a Therapy Dog or Non- Real Counterpart

The main objective of this study is to examine whether therapy dogs would be beneficial to children with autism spectrum disorder. Parents will be asked to complete a survey about their child’s responses following interactions with a therapy dog and handler vs non-real toy dog with the same handler.

EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: Families with an autistic individual will be divided into 2 groups – some families will work with a therapy dog, while other families will work with a stuffed toy dog. The therapy dog handlers will visit the participating families homes once per week for a month for up to 60 minute sessions with a therapy dog or in some families, a stuffed dog.  The latter families would have the opportunity to receive subsequent visits with a therapy dog over an additional 4 week study period.

Informational Sheet

You are invited to voluntarily participate in a research study that will measure the treatment effects of canine-assisted therapy on children with autism spectrum disorder.

In conjunction with the non-profit agency A.I.R. (attitudes in reverse),  a therapy dog or a stuffed toy dog and handler will come to your home for up to 60 minutes once per week for one month. The parent(s) or caregiver of children with autism spectrum disorder will be asked to complete a survey before each session and after the final session,  The survey, the “Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist” or ATEC survey, will consist of multiple-choice questions that should take approximately 20-30 minutes to complete. You will be asked about your child’s diagnosis that was previously provided by a professional.

CONFIDENTIALITY/RISKS: This research is completely anonymous. Only the parent/caregiver’s initials will appear on the survey. No information will be recorded that could identify you. This study consists of only a survey and there are no risks involved.

COMPENSATION/BENEFITS: You will receive no direct benefit or monetary compensation for participating in this study.  The animal-assisted therapy sessions will be provided free of charge. It is expected that the research will provide scientists with a better understanding of whether animal assisted therapy is beneficial in the treatment of autism spectrum disorder.

RESEARCH QUESTIONS: Contact Dr. Julie Fagan at 848-932-8354, ruffloveus@yahoo.com with questions.

SUBJECT RIGHTS: This study has been approved by the Human Subjects Institutional Review Board.

Interested in Participating in our Research Study on Animals & Autism?

The use of service and “therapy” animals in the treatment of a variety of emotional disorders, including depression, post traumatic stress disorder, and autism, has recently come into the spotlight.  Hopeful parents, caregivers, and individuals suffering from such disorders want to latch onto a new non drug therapy that may help manage the disorder.  Unfortunately, there have been few scientific studies evaluating the effectiveness of animal-assisted therapy in the treatment of such disorders, including autism.

This is where you come in.  Help us determine whether therapy dogs prove to be beneficial for those with autism.  As a control, some families will receive visits with a stuffed toy dog and handler.  These families would later have the opportunity to receive home therapy dog visits. There is no charge or compensation for participating.

If interested in participating either as a therapy dog provider or as a family member with autism spectrum disorder, please email:  ruffloveus@yahoo.com