Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Hickey, L., Lee, A., & Gibbon, F.
The IASLT Biennial Conference
Developing a protocol for quantifying interactions and communication between children with autism and their assistance dogs
Dublin, Ireland
Poster Presentation
2013
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Optional Fields
18-APR-13
19-APR-13
Aims: This study aimed to develop a protocol for quantifying interactions and communication between children with autism and their assistance dogs. The study is motivated by the increasing anecdotal evidence that parents perceived positive impact of assistance dogs on their child’s social interaction with family members and the wider community. The provision of an assistance dog to children with autism is a recent service, with a primary purpose of enhancing physical safety of these children in public areas (e.g. to prevent them from bolting into traffic). Despite the high cost (€15,000 to train one dog) and high demand for assistance dogs, there has been very little research that investigated their additional benefits aside from the safety issue. To answer this question, direct observation and documentation of social interactions between children with autism and their assistance dogs is a preferred method compared to anecdotal reports. A few direct observation methods have been published but they are not suitable for the purpose; hence, a new protocol was piloted. The results showed that the new protocol is a promising method; further research is needed to establish its reliability and validity for quantifying interactions and communication between children with autism and their assistance dogs. Methods: Two children, aged 8 and 16, and their assistance dogs engaged in various activities, which were recorded using Apple iTouch and analysed using a software for behavioural analysis (The Observer XT Version 10.0, Noldus Information Technology, UK). The social interactions charting method used by Prothmann et al. (2005) was initially employed and tested. Subsequently, substantial modifications were made and a new protocol was developed and tested again. Results: The new protocol proved to be more reliable, useful and comprehensive for the purpose of measuring interactions and communication compared with Prothmann et al.’s method. Its use can be generalised across other recordings. Discussion: The results showed that the new protocol is a promising method; further research is needed to establish its reliability and validity for quantifying interactions and communication between children with autism and their assistance dogs.