Animal-assisted interventions as an adjunct to ABA services with children and youth with autism spectrum disorder
Ghai, Jessica Lee
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While the popularity of animal-assisted interventions (AAI) continues to increase, the empirical support to justify its use is still debatable. What is also largely absent from the extant literature are large-scale examinations of clinician populations that may incorporate AAI in their practices. This survey study was conducted to examine the use, perceptions, and knowledge of animal incorporation practices incorporated into ABA services by ABA clinicians that serve children and youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). A total of 544 ABA clinicians within the United States completed the web-based survey instrument. Data confirmed that respondents have not only considered the incorporation of animals into ABA services, but a meaningful number have also engaged in animal incorporation practices. Dogs were the most frequently incorporated animal with intervention and animal characteristics variable across respondents. Respondents reported animal incorporation as desirable and feasible, but had generally low levels of knowledge about animal-assisted interventions. Perceptions of the effects of human-animal interactions on children and youth with ASD were overall positive. Results of this study uncovered a number of concerns related to professional implications and animal welfare.