Pets May Be Beneficial for Individuals With Autism

Individuals with autism more likely to offer to share and offer comfort after pet arrival

THURSDAY, Aug. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Individuals with autism display some improvement in prosocial behaviors after the arrival of a pet in their homes, according to research published online Aug. 1 in PLoS One.

Marine Grandgeorge, Ph.D., of the Centre de Ressources Autisme in Bohars, France, and colleagues conducted a study involving a total of 260 individuals with autism divided into two groups of 12 and two groups of eight who were assigned to one of two studies. In study 1, the effects of a pet arrival after age 5 were compared with having no pet. In study 2, the effects of having a pet versus no pet were examined. Social impairment was assessed using the 36-item Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised parental questionnaire.

The researchers found that, in the pet-arrival-after-age-5 group, two of the 36 items changed positively: offering to share and offering comfort. No significant changes were seen in the having-a-pet-since-birth group. No other significant between-group differences were observed.

"To our knowledge, this is the first study showing an association between pet arrival and changes in prosocial behaviors," the authors write. "Our study follows the footsteps of the human-pet reports on the improvement of prosocial behaviors in individuals with typical development."

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