A University of Missouri researcher recently found that children with autism have
stronger social skills when an animal lives in the house with them.
“When I compared…children with autism who lived with dogs to those who did
not, the children with dogs appeared to have greater social skills,” says Gretchen
Carlisle, research fellow at the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction in the
MU College of Veterinary Medicine. “However, children with any kind of animal in
the home…were more likely to engage in behaviors such as introducing themselves,
asking for information or responding to other people’s questions.”
Carlisle surveyed 70 families who had children with autism between the ages of
eight and 18. The children were patients at the MU Thompson Center for Autism
and Neurodevelopmental Disorders. Almost 70% of the families that participated in
the research had dogs, and about half had cats. Other pets owned by participants
included fish, farm animals, rodents, rabbits, reptiles, a bird and even one spider.