|TITLE:||HOW WILL THERAPY DOGS MAKE AN IMPACT ON CHILDREN WITH AUTISM: A QUALITATIVE CASE STUDY THAT WILL LOOK AT THE BEHAVIORAL AND SOCIAL EFFECTS OF A THERAPY DOG WHEN IMPLEMENTED IN A SELF-CONTAINED AUTISM CLASSROOM|
|PRINCIPLE INVESTIGATOR:||TAYLOR, JACQUELINE|
MAS-ASSESSMENT AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER
|OTHER INVESTIGATORS:||I WILL BE INVOLVING MY 12 STUDENTS THAT ARE CURRENTLY IN MY SELF-CONTAINED AUTISM CLASSROOM|
File Created: October 1, 2012|
Department Chair Action Date: October 9, 2012
Current Status: Final Status Report Received
|Confidentiality||Data are not linked to individuals|
STATEMENT OF PURPOSEAs a professional in the field of Autism, every day is entrenched with a pursuit to find the missing piece of the puzzle. Children with Autism are introverted; children trapped in their own bodies without a means to communicate their thoughts, emotions, and feelings. It is has been proven that children with Autism often struggle with the social skills necessary to function in the world around them and lack the necessary skills to form relationships with the people in their lives. Oftentimes, children with autism exhibit behaviors inappropriate because of their inability to communicate their wants and needs. Many doctors, scientists and teachers have sought to find answers too many plaguing problems children with Autism face. As a teacher in the in the field of Autism, I am always looking to find new ways to reach my children and give them every chance possible to achieve their personal academic, social and emotional goals. Simply put, the passion I have for this topic and the ability to make a difference in the lives of these children’s lives inside and outside the classroom is why I chose this topic for my research study. In addition, I spend my personal time training and caring for therapy dogs. I have been fortunate enough to see the immediate influence that these animals have on the lives of those who have gone through adversity and I believe therapy dogs can make a positive impact on a child with Autism’s life. Although a rather innovative form of therapy, there are substantial amounts of research on the use of therapy dogs and children with Autism. There has been research done primarily in the clinical setting on the affects of therapy dogs on the social, emotional and behavioral health of children diagnosed with Autism. I am researching the effects of incorporating my second passion: therapy dogs and their affects on children with Autism when incorporating them into a special education classroom. I will research the effects that therapy dogs have on behavior and social skills when used in an academic small or large group setting. My research will show that in a classroom setting what current research has already shown that therapy animals reduce blood pressure, increase communication, lower stress, lower anxiety levels, increase joint attention and stimulates the release of endorphins. I have personally seen amazing effects with students who were at one point unreachable and have become reachable when given the opportunity to work with a therapy dog. The therapy dog can get the attention of a student who otherwise is very difficult to get joint attention from. Behaviors can change when a therapy dog is used as an incentive. Lastly when a student is calm, giving full attention, and not participating in self-stimulatory behaviors they are more likely to make academic progress. These are the effects I believe animal assisted therapy will have on my classroom.
STATEMENT OF RESEARCH METHODOLOGYIn my preliminary literature review, I have found that Animal assisted therapy has shown to be beneficial to children on the Autism spectrum. Researchers found 3 common themes in the literature: Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) improves the communication of children with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), AAT improves the behavior of children with ASD, and lastly AAT improved the social skills of children with ASD. Although all three of these themes confirm my preconceived notions, that children with Autism will benefit from my research they do not address the concept of incorporating a therapy dog in an Autism classroom on a consistent basis that is why I feel my research is necessary. My research will seek to the question “When a therapy dog is implemented in an Autism classroom on a regular basis, will the research find that AAT improves communication, behavior and social skills? ”. In December of 2012, I will begin to practice collecting data as a teacher in the classroom. The study will be a qualitative study with quantitative aspects of data reporting. I will give my students a 2-3 months to get comfortable with having a new teacher and therapy dog in the classroom. This way the variable will become and remain natural overtime. This will also give me at least one year to collect data across several academic settings and possibly different students. I believe the preliminary results of my study will show that Therapy dogs can and will have positive effects on the academic and personal success of my students with Autism. Data will be collected every other day with the dog and the off day the data will be collected without using the dog through formal and informal observations and interviews. The verbal students will be asked questions like” how they feel when there is a therapy dog present during instruction” and “why the dogs do or do not help them”? All students’ behaviors and self-stimulatory behaviors will be recorded and compared to times when there is no therapy dog present. Social skills and communication will also be observed; number of spontaneous utterances, eye contact and intelligible language will be recorded. All data will compared to the days there is not dog used during instruction. The data tallied will be presented in both narratives and charts/graphs. In order to ensure the study is statistically sound I will implement a statistical test like the t-test. The t-test looks at differences between two groups on some variable of interest and must only have 2 variables. A test like this can compare data from the day the therapy dog is used in instruction compared to the days it is not. I will also look at the correlation used with two variables to determine a relationship/association between use of a therapy dog in instruction and not using one. Taking the time to ensure accuracy in statistical reporting will ensure the validity of my research.
ANTICIPATED RISKS AND BENEFITSThe current research shows positive effects when therapy dogs are used in clinical settings with children with Autism. My hypothesis is that my study will reflect the same positive results in my classroom. I assume that my student’s behavior will improve, their spontaneous communication will increase and students will exhibit less self-stimulatory behaviors. I believe the preliminary results of my study will show that Therapy dogs can and will have positive effects on the academic success of my students with Autism. This project will enhance me as a professional and will allow me as a student to apply the knowledge gained from my study directly into my classroom. I have the opportunity to try an innovative therapy that has the potential to help my students in many capacities. In order to be the best possible educator, I must grow as a researcher and learn how to apply what I have gained to help further my students’ educational environment. In order to be a good researcher, one must provide an environment with that produces ethically sound research free of biases. Because I am the one collecting the research, implementing the academic program and supplying one of therapy dogs I must be very cautious to keep very unbiased data. There is always a potential for bias when the subject of research is an area that the researcher is passionate about or something they are close to. The professional must strive to keep a professional line in order to get accurate results without prejudices. There are no risks to any participants, the dog that will be used in the study is trained and certified to work with children and has worked with this population before.
SUBJECT SELECTIONThere will be 12 students in the study and there ages will range from 6-9 and will all be diagnosed somewhere on the Autism spectrum and placed in a self-contained environment. All students will be on my personal caseload so I can observe and take data daily. The students will all receive the same length of instruction daily and data will be recorded at different times of the day during different instructional times.
CONFIDENTIALITYI will begin collecting data in December of 2012 to give the students a couple months to get used to having a new teacher and therapy dog in the classroom. This will be give me at least six months to collect data across several academic settings and with different students. The data will be collected daily in academic and social settings. Behavior, communication and academic progress will be confidentially monitored. Students will be given numbers that only I will know so I can track and monitor the process of each student in a confidential manner. Data will be stored in a locked filling cabinet and data will be displayed in a confidential format. All appropriate measures will be taken to ensure all participants rights to confidentiality.
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Final Report on 04-08-2013
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