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Can Therapy Dogs Help Kids With Autism?
Date:2/26/2013

p>Cirulli agreed that better defined studies are key.

It's possible, Cirulli noted, that a dog could have negative effects on some kids with an autism spectrum disorder. An animal might, for instance, increase "hyper" behavior.

For parents wondering whether adopting a dog is a good idea, the answer seems to be, "It depends."

Cirulli pointed out that these studies focused on dogs trained to be around children with autism. So the findings cannot be assumed to apply to your average Fido.

You might first want to see how your child reacts to a friend's or neighbor's dog, Cirulli suggested.

"Getting a dog could be a nice thing for the family," Nishawala agreed. "It could be therapeutic for everyone."

If you are interested in a trained service dog, be prepared for an investment. It costs about $20,000 to train a dog, and the family would have to foot much of that bill.

More information

Autism Service Dogs of America has more on which kids might benefit from a canine companion.

SOURCES: Francesca Cirulli, Ph.D., National Institute of Health, Rome, Italy; Melissa Nishawala, M.D., medical director, Autism Spectrum Disorders Clinical and Research Program, Child Study Center, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York City; February 2013, Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine


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