Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in Psychology

Degree Level



Psychological Science


Quetsch, Lauren

Committee Member/Reader

Kilmer, Michele

Committee Member/Second Reader

Chapman, Kate

Committee Member/Third Reader

Thomas, Johanna


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by difficulties in social interaction, nonverbal communication, and repetitive patterns (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2013). Indeed, autistic individuals have been shown to have greater challenges with developing, maintaining, and understanding social relationships which can persist over their lifetime. Early intervention services are recommended for autistic children when they are young to help promote positive skills to enhance their functioning within society and increase their wellbeing over time. This is an especially pressing issue as ASD rates are rising – with the latest data now suggesting 1 in 36 children have the disorder (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2023).

Several evidence-based treatment modalities are available for addressing symptoms related to ASD but interest in the use of animals to improve prosocial experiences and behavioral management has recently gained traction (e.g., animal assisted interventions; Nieforth, et al., 2021; Politte et al., 2015). This interest has been sparked due to findings suggesting that animal- assisted therapy (AAT) may enhance the quality of life for autistic youth by reducing stress and behavior problems and improving motor skills and communication (Nieforth et al., 2021). However, research investigating the use of animals, specifically canines, in clinical settings to promote prosocial behaviors in children who are at risk for developmental delay (DD) or ASD is in its infancy, leading to many gaps in evidence-based practice in the implementation of AAT and in the care of the canine (Flynn et al., 2020). The human-animal interaction between canines and children with DD and ASD along with canine care recommendations must be investigated to best understand the effect of AAT on child prosocial behavior.


autism spectrum disorder, animal-assisted therapy, AAT