The aim of this study was to identify the outcomes expected and assessed by those providing service dogs to children with developmental disabilities. Seventeen registered service dog providers were invited to complete a mixed methods online survey. Five providers, who prepared dogs to work with a wide range of conditions and behaviours, mainly Asperger's syndrome, autism and communication disorders, completed the survey. All five participants reported that they expected to see positive changes as a consequence of the service dog placement, in both the recipient child and their family, including improvements in attention span and language skills, as well as increased familial cohesion. Survey responses indicated that not all desired outcomes were routinely assessed. The range of assessments used were interviews, intake conversations, pre-placement questionnaires, child social dairies filled in by parents, follow up surveys after placement, and child observation by parents. No specifically named valid and reliable clinical or research measures were referred to, showing an emphasis on assessments from parents and service dog providers. It is not clear whether pre-intervention assessments are repeated systematically at follow-up, which could show robust intervention effects. There is scope for professionals in developmental disability to work with service dog providers to improve the evidence base in this field.
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The final publication is available at www.springerlink.com.
- assistance dogs
- service providers
- outcome measures
- developmental disability