Date of Conferral







Kimberley Cox


According to theory of the mind, individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are unable to interpret the social cues of others, which results in anxiety and social behavior deficits . Individuals with ASD are currently using canine Companion Service Animals (CSAs) in order to practice developing attachment bonds ; however, no known quantitative studies have demonstrated the efficacy of CSA in improving social behaviors in ASD populations. The purpose of this quantitative study was to examine the extent to which exposure to CSA impacts social skills and social interaction in children and adolescents with ASD as measured by the parent self-reports on the Social Skills Improvement System (SSIS) and the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS), respectively. MANOVA results of a matched-paticipant, equivalent, posttest-only design ( n = 122) showed that CSA users had fewer deficits in social skills and social interaction. There were no differences in age, IQ, or comorbidity CSA scores for social interaction or social skills based on MANOVA analysis. Results suggest that attachment bonds between the CSA user and an associated CSA provide an opportunity to engage in social interactions despite social skill deficits. This study contributes to social change by increasing awareness of the impact of CSA on the daily social functioning of children and adolescents with ASD.