Childrenwho have ADHD, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, can have impairedcognitive abilities, social skills, and a lack of focus.
These symptoms canresult in anger and frustration for the child. Medication has shown to reducesymptoms of ADHD, however, it lacks to improve the overall executive functioningof a child. There is an urge to find an intervention that can both reducesymptoms and promote a stronger executive function. In their research,Canine-assisted therapy for children with ADHD: preliminary findings from thepositive assertive cooperative kids study, Schuck, Emmerson, Fine, and Lakes (2013) statesthat canine-assisted therapy improves the symptoms of ADHD in children.Toprovide an alternative intervention, canine-assisted therapy is thought to be away to engage children through motivation.
Therapy dogs could provoke anemotional response, as well as grabbing the child’s attention for sociallearning. In the study conducted there were two groups, one group would receivecognitive-behavioral treatment with canine-assisted intervention (CAI), whilethe other group only received cognitive-behavioral treatment (non-CAI). The CAIgroup included therapy dogs with their handlers, compared to stuffed toy dogsfor the non-CAI group to make a comparison. Schuck et al. (2013) hypothesized that the groupwith CAI would have higher overall results regarding behavior, social skills,and academics.In order to start the study, theresearchers needed participants that met a certain criteria.
Requirementsfor the study were that the children needed to be between the ages of 7-9, withADHD, could not be currently on any ADHD medication, and an IQ score of 80 orabove. The 24 participants were randomly assigned to either CAI treatment ornon-CAI treatment plans. Half of the participants began the 12-week treatmentright away and the other half of the participants began treatment a full twelveweeks later than the first group, as a control group. The study used threedifferent rating scales. The ADHD-Rating Scale to measure levels of ADHDsymptoms, Social Skills Improvement for social abilities and behaviors, andSocial Competence Inventory that breaks down into two scales.
Those scales are ProsocialOrientation and Social Initiative to observe different aspects of social behavior.One parent of each child would rate the different measures before, during, andsix weeks after the trail ended. Both the child and parent had weekly sessionsfor 12 weeks, 4 ½ hours for the child and 2 hours for the parent (Schuck et al., 2013).These criteria and scales allowed the researchers to conduct their study. Once the study was complete, the resultswere analyzed.
In the group that received immediate treatment, therewas a large decrease of the ADHD symptoms overall score, however, the controlgroup, whose score increased. Also noted in the results was an increase insocial skills for both groups, although the score increased considerably higherin the immediate treatment group. When comparing the CAI and non-CAI groups,both groups decreased ADHD symptoms. The study further reports that the CAIgroup was able to decrease ADHD symptoms even after the trial ended and that wasnot the case for the non-CAI group. In fact, the non-CAI participant’s ADHDsymptoms increased slightly 6 weeks after the trial ended. The results did not differtremendously in the social skills categories between the treatment groups. Overallin the findings of this study, there were improvements of ADHD levels of bothgroups.
However, Schucket al. (2013) states that the children who received canine-assistedintervention had even greater results in reducing ADHD symptoms.