Animalia

An Anthrozoology Journal


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Child-Canine Bonding in Children with ASD: Findings Within and Across Case Studies

The demand for support for families impacted by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) continues to grow, and one increasingly popular avenue of support is the use of companion canines. Parents searching for service canines trained to work with children with ASD, however, face formidable obstacles surrounding the availability and cost of canines. Due to these challenges, parents may seek less formal routes to support their children with ASD, often adding companion canines to their family. Despite enthusiasm, little is known about human-animal bonding in children with ASD and research identifying factors that influence children on the spectrum’s ability to bond with a companion canine is meagre. Using a Family Systems approach and Bowlby’s Attachment theory, this exploratory case study sought to identify the pathways through which child-canine bonding occurs and the factors contributing to this bonding process. Families (N=6), with a child aged 5-14 years with a confirmed diagnosis of ASD and their family canine, participated in the study. Findings revealed that the child-canine bond in children with ASD can be conceptualized as an attachment relationship. Furthermore, seven themes characterizing child-canine bonding emerged. Findings highlight theoretical and applied implications within the fields of human-animal interaction (HAI) and ASD.

 By Kathryn Struik and John-Tyler Binfet

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Animal-Assisted Interventions as a Learning Aid – A Literature Review

Animal-assisted interventions (AAI) on learning and mental health is an evolving matter within psychology. In past history, such mediations have been held to ridicule by scholars who deemed animals to be insignificant within the field. Today, the American Humane Association postulates that the objective of AAI is a goal-directed movement, used to improve one’s “social, cognitive or emotional functioning” (Ganzert, 2013). “Animal- assisted Intervention” is an umbrella term for what is traditionally known as animal-assisted therapy (AAT), animal-assisted activities (AAA), and animal-assisted education (AAE). This paper seeks to provide a comprehensive review of extant empirical research on AAI as a tool to enhance children’s learning outcomes.

By Robyn Lawes

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Human Animal Relationship: A Source of Wellbeing and a Therapeutic Catalytic Tool

The aim of this study was to better understand the general beliefs and attitudes toward companion animals in Puerto Rico. This relationship becoming a possible source of wellbeing and a therapeutic catalytic tool in our participant life’s. Data was collected using an auto- administered questionnaire developed by the authors. The target populations of this survey were Puerto Rican residents, aged at least over 21 years. The total data collected was a total of 1,327 responses. The results shows that 84% of the participants indicated they have an animal companions in their home, only 16% said they have none. Almost 82% participants currently have a total of 4 (mean = 3.8) animal companions. The majority (39%) of the participants indicated that they spend 12 hours or more with their companion animals. Concerning activities with their companion animal’s participants said that they stroked (94%), played (92%), talked (89%) and walked (57%) their companion animals. Concerning the human animal bond, participants rated their companion animals as extremely important (72%), very important (24%), neutral (4%), not that important (0.4%), and not important (0.1%). They also rated their companion animals as family members (99%). The results of this study align with other research on the topic that show that human animal interaction enhance and facilitate positive traits in us (Hediger and Turner, 2014). This in turn becomes a fundamental opportunity in the work of counseling psychology within the context of psychotherapy to create more effective interventions and take into account a very important relationship in the participant’s life. Companion animals should become part of the factors we consider when working and developing therapeutic plans for our participants (Thew, Marco, Erdman and Caro, 2015).

By Úrsula Aragunde Kohl

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The Use of Animal-Assisted Interventions in Social Services: A Literature Synthesis

The field of Animal-Assisted Interventions (AAI’s) is emerging and developing steadily, however the available literature which addresses this field is limited. This literature synthesis includes 27 articles from this limited pool and addresses what AAI programs exist, how they are being studied, and what the results of these studies are. This synthesis identifies characteristics of current AAI programs, and the methods being used to assess them, and groups findings from all 27 articles thematically. Findings suggest that AAI’s help participants in developing life skills, improve their desire to attend and participate in the intervention, support feelings of non-judgement and the generation of trust within the therapeutic relationship, help to alleviate a variety of symptoms, and are typically cost efficient. Findings also indicate the potential for AAI’s to improve participants levels of sociability and self-esteem but these findings are not consistent across studies. Finally, a number of questions and areas for further research are identified, which will support continued development, and improve effectiveness of these interventions.

By Rebecca Sheluk

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A Narrative Review of Qualitative and Quantitative Research in Equine-assisted Social Work or Therapy – Addressing Gaps and Contradictory Results

This article reviews the published literature narrative about equine-assisted or equine-facilitated social work or therapy, a growing area of interventions. The purpose is to shed light on gaps and contradictory results in previous studies between 2000-2014. The goal is to assist practitioners and researchers, identifying and providing perspectives on complicated issues when results of interventions are pointing in different directions. In total, 55 published articles and 15 dissertations were analyzed thematically. Excluded are studies focused on therapeutic riding for the physically disabled or hippotherapy benefiting from equine movement, as well as studies focused on individuals’ riding goals or horsemanship skills. The implications for further research address gaps in the literature on the process in equine assisted or facilitated work. The process need to be described from professional affiliation, the purpose of the intervention, theoretical perspective, the intended role of the horse, ethical approach both concerning the client and the horse, plan to prevent risks as well as describe risks in relation to possible outcomes both for the client and the horse and finally a description about how the intervention are evaluated. Standardization of terminology and language used to communicate interventions, methods, and theories is recommended. The analysis suggests a need to use a variety of research methods in interdisciplinary research groups. This allows different paradigms of participatory, as well as constructivism or post-positivism, to capture the complexity of social work or therapy facilitated or assisted by horses. This article does not critically review each specific investigation, but focuses on how the process has been presented in previous research.

By Catharina Carlsson

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Photo by G. Hjortryd