Increasing the social communication of a boy with autism using animal-assisted play therapy: A case report

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Context • Although research has shown that animalassisted play therapy (AAPT) is associated with increased positive social behaviors in children with autism, the related literature on AAPT and autism is very limited.
Objectives • The study tested the effectiveness of AAPT in increasing the social communication of a boy with autism. The treatment’s effects on specific types of social
communication were also investigated.
Design • An A-B-A single-subject design was adopted to examine treatment effectiveness. Follow-up assessments were made at 1 mo posttreatment.
Setting • The videotaped treatment sessions were held in the multipurpose room of the participant’s school.
Participant • A 7-y-old boy who had a diagnosis of autism and mild-grade intellectual disability participated in the study.
Intervention • AAPT was implemented in 20-min sessions held 3 ×/wk. The 14 AAPT sessions occurred in 4 phases, covering child-dog relationship building and interaction in the presence of the therapist, with the diminishing presence of the dog occurring in phase 4.
Outcome Measures • Naturally occurring social behaviors were measured in 3 baseline sessions, during the 14 AAPT sessions, during 3 posttreatment sessions, and again during 3 follow-up sessions. Momentary time sampling was used to estimate the frequency of target behaviors, using a 15-s interval. Behavioral categories were checked at every interval during each 20-min session in all 23 sessions.
Results • The study showed that the boy’s social communication increased during treatment and remained higher than baseline at follow-up. An analysis of specific types of social communication showed that the benefits of AAPT were most apparent in the joint-attention and waiting behaviors.
Conclusions • The findings provide support for using AAPT as an intervention to facilitate the social communication of children with autism. (Adv Mind Body Med. 2015;29(3):27-31.) Copyright © 2015 Advances : Journal of the Institute for the Advancement of Health.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-31
JournalAdvances in Mind - Body Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015


Animal Assisted Therapy
Play Therapy
Autistic Disorder
Social Behavior
Intellectual Disability
Outcome Assessment (Health Care)


Fung, S. C. (2015). Increasing the social communication of a boy with autism using animal-assisted play therapy: A case report. Advances in Mind - Body Medicine, 29(3), 27-31.