Tag Archives: human interaction

Dogs benefit children with autism

A University of Missouri researcher has studied dog ownership decisions in families of children with autism and found that parents report a range of benefits of dog ownership including companionship, stress relief and opportunities for their children to learn responsibility.

Photo credit: Noël Zia Lee, Wikimedia Commons

Photo credit: Noël Zia Lee, Wikimedia Commons

‘Children with autism spectrum disorders often struggle with interacting with others, which can make it difficult for them to form friendships,’ said Gretchen Carlisle, the study’s author. ‘Children with autism may especially benefit from interacting with dogs, which can provide unconditional, nonjudgmental love and companionship to the children.’

Carlisle interviewed 70 parents of children with autism.  Nearly two-thirds of the parents in the study owned dogs, and of those parents, 94 percent reported their children with autism were bonded to their dogs. Even in families without dogs, 70 percent of parents said their children with autism liked dogs.

‘Bringing a dog into any family is a big step, but for families of children with autism, getting a dog should be a decision that’s taken very seriously.  If a child with autism is sensitive to loud noises, choosing a dog that is likely to bark will not provide the best match for the child and the family. If the child has touch sensitivities, perhaps a dog with a softer coat, such as a poodle, would be better than a dog with a wiry or rough coat, such as a terrier.’

The study, “Pet Dog Ownership Decisions for Parents of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder,” was published in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing earlier this year.

Source:  University of Missouri media release

For more about the benefits of dogs for people with autism, read my post Dogs are a ‘social lubricant’ in helping people with autism

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A dog-designed robot?

A very different type of research article has been published in the journal Animal Cognition.  This study found that dogs react sociably to robots that behave socially towards them, even if the devices look nothing like a human.

What?  Yes – that’s right.  A research team led by Gabriella Lakatos of the Hungarian Academy of Science and Eötvös Loránd University tested the reactions of 41 dogs with a PeopleBot robot.  The robot had two arms and four-fingered hands, resembling a piece of gym equipment with a white gloved hand attached to it.

One set of dogs in the ‘asocial group’ first observed an interaction between two humans (the owner and the human experimenter) and then observed an ‘asocial’ interaction between the owner and the robot. Another set of dogs watched an interaction between the owner and the human experimenter followed by observing a ‘social’ interaction between the owner and the robot.

A dog and the PeopleBot robot

A dog and the PeopleBot robot

These interactions were followed by sessions in which either the human experimenter or the robot pointed out the location of hidden food.

The dogs spent more time near the robot or gazing at its head when the PeopleBot behaved socially.

“Roboticists who design interactive robots should look into the sociality and behavior of their designs, even if they do not embody human-like characteristics,” Lakatos advises.

Source:  Springer media release