Title

Dog-walking as a physical and social activity: Implications for health and well-being of children with ASD and their families

Start Time

21-10-2011 9:45 AM

End Time

21-10-2011 10:15 AM

Session Type

Event

Abstract

Statement of intent: The activity of dog-walking has been under increased scrutiny in health and rehabilitation research in the U.S. and other countries. This recent attention may be due to the urgent need to address such pervasive health concerns as physical decline in aging populations, decreased physical activity due to sedentary lifestyles, and increased obesity and overweight across age groups in post-industrial societies. A number of research studies on dog walking as part of health benefits of pet ownership have been conducted in the United States, Australia, Finland, Great Brittan and Japan (Johnson, 2003; Reeves et al., 2011).

Argument: Dog-walking involves both social and physical engagement of the child with ASD with the companion dog and other people. There is growing evidence that children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) respond to companion animals, especially dogs, with a marked increase in sociality and improved participation in everyday activities with family members and peers (Gross, 2006). Children with ASD are more likely to engage in play and to display more attention to other people when a dog is present (Solomon, 2010). Although dog-walking may be challenging for children with ASD because of gross motor impairments (Baranek, 1999), it may also afford increased physical activity and participation in family, peer and community contexts.

Importance to occupational science: The paper examines the activity of dog-walking and its potential to promote health and well-being through enhanced social engagement and participation of children with ASD in everyday activities with other people. The focus on dog-walking as a site for engagement in social and physical activity is consistent with the interest in occupational science for ways in which children and families actively participate in the construction of their own experiences and social worlds through engagement in occupations.

Conclusion: There is a need to examine dog-walking activity involving children with ASD and their family members from an occupational science perspective. It will contribute to understanding how health and well-being of children with ASD and their families who have companion dogs may be enhanced by dogwalking, and whether and how dog-walking may have a positive impact on children and families’ physical activity, stress-reduction, and participation across social contexts.

Objectives for discussion: identifying analytic dimensions relevant to the study of dog-walking from occupational science perspective; exploring the notion of “companion animal” as relevant to the concept of “occupation” and specifically to dog-walking activity.

References

Baranek, G.T. (1999). Autism during Infancy: a Retrospective Video Analysis of Sensory-Motor and Social Behaviors at 9–12 months of age. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 29, 213–224. http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/A:1023080005650

Gross, P.D. (2006). The Golden Bridge: A Guide to Assistance Aogs for Children Challenged by Autism or Other Developmental Disabilities. Indiana: Purdue University Press.

Johnson, R. A. (2003). Editorial: Human-Animal interaction, illness, prevention, and wellness promotion. American Behavioral Scientist, 47(1), 5-6. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0002764203255205

Reeves, M.J., Rafferty, A.P., Miller, C.E., Lyon-Callo, S.K. (2011) The Impact of Dog Walking on Leisure-Time Physical Activity: Results From a Population-Based Survey of Michigan Adults. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 8(3): 436-444.

Solomon, O. (2010). What a Dog Can Do: Children with Autism and Therapy Dogs in Social Interaction. Ethos, Special Issue: Autism: Rethinking the Possibilities, 38(1), 143-166.

Comments

Theoretical paper

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Oct 21st, 9:45 AM Oct 21st, 10:15 AM

Dog-walking as a physical and social activity: Implications for health and well-being of children with ASD and their families

Statement of intent: The activity of dog-walking has been under increased scrutiny in health and rehabilitation research in the U.S. and other countries. This recent attention may be due to the urgent need to address such pervasive health concerns as physical decline in aging populations, decreased physical activity due to sedentary lifestyles, and increased obesity and overweight across age groups in post-industrial societies. A number of research studies on dog walking as part of health benefits of pet ownership have been conducted in the United States, Australia, Finland, Great Brittan and Japan (Johnson, 2003; Reeves et al., 2011).

Argument: Dog-walking involves both social and physical engagement of the child with ASD with the companion dog and other people. There is growing evidence that children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) respond to companion animals, especially dogs, with a marked increase in sociality and improved participation in everyday activities with family members and peers (Gross, 2006). Children with ASD are more likely to engage in play and to display more attention to other people when a dog is present (Solomon, 2010). Although dog-walking may be challenging for children with ASD because of gross motor impairments (Baranek, 1999), it may also afford increased physical activity and participation in family, peer and community contexts.

Importance to occupational science: The paper examines the activity of dog-walking and its potential to promote health and well-being through enhanced social engagement and participation of children with ASD in everyday activities with other people. The focus on dog-walking as a site for engagement in social and physical activity is consistent with the interest in occupational science for ways in which children and families actively participate in the construction of their own experiences and social worlds through engagement in occupations.

Conclusion: There is a need to examine dog-walking activity involving children with ASD and their family members from an occupational science perspective. It will contribute to understanding how health and well-being of children with ASD and their families who have companion dogs may be enhanced by dogwalking, and whether and how dog-walking may have a positive impact on children and families’ physical activity, stress-reduction, and participation across social contexts.

Objectives for discussion: identifying analytic dimensions relevant to the study of dog-walking from occupational science perspective; exploring the notion of “companion animal” as relevant to the concept of “occupation” and specifically to dog-walking activity.