“From a Parents’ Perspective: Using Assistance Dogs for Children with ASD.”
Kaylee Lindgren, BSW & Alicia R Pence, PhD

Abstract

A study was conducted to investigate how the lives of two parents were influenced by the services provided through a service dog to mitigate difficulties experienced by children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Children diagnosed with ASD experience cognitive, emotional, and social issues, which can create additional stressors for their families. To strengthen child and familial relationships, while addressing specific concerns related to ASD, service dogs hold great promise for supporting families of children with autism. A qualitative multiple case study design was used to explore the type of influence a service dog had on the parents of two young boys with autism. Data was gathered through interviews with parents and multiple observations of the family interactions. An open coding approach (Bloomberg & Volpe, 2012) was utilized to analyze interview and observational data. Service dogs benefit parents emotionally and physically. Service dogs develop a unique bond with parents in private settings and provide extra support in open environments. Findings in this study affirms current literature supporting the use of service dogs for children with ASD and contributes to the gap in literature highlighting the benefits for parents.