Assistance Dogs and Autism Ranking: Insufficient/Mixed evidence

Future Research

Summary of Existing Research

There is a limited amount of low-quality research evidence (three group studies and three single-case design studies with three or more participants) into the use of assistance dogs for individuals on the autism spectrum. There is no research on the use of assistance dogs with adults on the autism spectrum.

This research suggests that assistance dogs may provide several benefits to children and young people on the autism spectrum, and their parents and carers. Those benefits include increased safety, reduction of parental stress, an increased tolerance of dogs and greater opportunities for social inclusion.

However, because the quality of that research is so poor we cannot determine whether assistance dogs actually provide any benefits to any children and young people on the autism spectrum, or their parents and carers. We must wait for further research of sufficiently high quality to be completed.

Recommendations for Future Research

There is a need for small-scale research that uses quantitative methodologies (such as experimental trials) rather than qualitative methodologies (such as parental satisfaction surveys). 

That research should 

  • Compare assistance dogs with other interventions, such as therapy dogs, which are designed to provide the same benefits.
  • Identify if specific groups on the autism spectrum are more likely to benefit from assistance dogs than other groups on the spectrum.
  • Identify if assistance dogs have any beneficial or harmful effects in the medium to long term.
  • Involve people on the autism spectrum (and parents and carers) in the design, development and evaluation of those studies.

If this small-scale research demonstrates benefits, further, large-scale research may be justified.

31 Jan 2019
Last Review
01 Jan 2019
Next Review
01 Jan 2022