Terry K. Crowe, Ph.D., OTR/L; Jean C. Deitz, Ph.D., OTR/L; Melissa Winkle, OTR/L; Rachel A. Nelson, MOT, OTR/L; Jennifer Woolf, MOT, OTR/L
Background: With increasing frequency, service dogs are being placed with children with developmental disabilities (DDs). Occupational therapists and other professionals have advocated for the therapeutic use of service dog partnerships to facilitate greater independence and quality of life. There are no studies that examine service dog intervention with adolescents.
Method: This study focused on the effects of partnerships between service dogs and three participant dyads, each including an adolescent with DDs and a parent. A single-subject, alternating treatment design was used to compare the effects of two conditions (service dog present or not present). The effects were examined for adolescents’ anxiety behaviors during transitions and during grocery store shopping, for social interactions during grocery store shopping, and for parents’ reported levels of stress.
Results: Findings were that service dog partnerships reduced the presence of anxiety behaviors during transitions for one of the three adolescents; reduced the presence of anxiety behaviors during grocery store visits for two of the three adolescents; increased social interactions for all three of the participant dyads; and had no meaningful impact on self-reported parental stress level.
Conclusion: For adolescents with DDs, professionals may want to consider service dog partnerships to decrease anxiety behaviors and increase social interactions in the community.
Crowe, T. K., Deitz, J. C., Winkle, M. Y., Nelson, R. A., & Woolf, J. (2019). Effects of Partnerships between Adolescents with Developmental Disabilities and Service Dogs. The Open Journal of Occupational Therapy, 7(1). https://doi.org/10.15453/2168-6408.1520