A recent discovery by archaeologists found the remains of a man buried with his dog (Walsh 2009). Throughout the ages pets have been a central part of human life in almost every culture, infusing literature, traditions and customs of both modern and ancient peoples alike. Modern day scientific methods provide us with a way to finally document the impact of animals on humans in a controlled environment where the benefits and disadvantages can be identified.
Considering the tight relationship people have with their pets, it is of interest to observe how animals could influence the relationships that humans have between themselves, by encouraging a transition from interaction with the animal to interaction with human beings. This could be a promising avenue to help many people worldwide who are living with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
ASD has already received a lot of attention as a condition, which can benefit from Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT), incorporated as an Occupational Therapy (OT) intervention (Fine 2010). However, more research is required to validate and further understand the findings as well as to assess the impacts that AAT has on children with autism.
The benefits of carrying out this form of intervention in an OT setting focuses the intervention as one aimed at improving the quality of life of the clients, prioritising their specific personal needs and optimising their treatment plan.
Building on previous studies, the proposed research intends to investigate observed behavioural changes during an AAT intervention. The aims of the study are therefore to identify changes in the child’s social interaction during AAT, as well as the exploration of parent’s perception of AAT, based on their child’s behaviours before, during and after the intervention.