Year of Publication


Date of Thesis


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Occupational Therapy

Subject Categories

Occupational therapy


Importance: The World Health Organization recognizes that participation is important to an individual’s health and wellbeing; yet children with autism spectrum disorder participate in activities less frequently and with less variety compared to neurotypical children. Objective: To describe the role of autism assistance dogs in promoting participation and engagement in occupations and activities of daily living (ADLs) of children with autism spectrum disorder. Design: Two semi-structured interviews from a narrative perspective were conducted with each of four participants. Interpretative phenomenology and Creswell’s thematic analysis were used to code and analyze qualitative data. Setting: Interviews were conducted by video interview. Participants: Four volunteer parents/primary handlers of their child’s autism assistance dog participated in the study. Inclusion criteria: Family must have had an autism assistance dog for greater than one year prior to the start of the study. Outcomes and Measures: Develop codes and theoretical perspectives to better understand the lived experience of autism assistance dog users. Results: The role of autism assistance dogs is multifactored; these dogs improve children’s participation and engagement across all domains of occupation. All the participants reported that the benefits of autism assistance dogs outweigh the challenges associated with owning/using an assistance dog. Conclusions and Relevance: Autism assistance dogs are a valuable, alternative form of adaptive equipment for children with ASD that can serve a broad purpose in increasing participation in daily life. What This Article Adds: The four stories provided reveal that advocating for and assisting families in acquiring an autism assistance dog along with helping families to best use the dogs to support participation of their children is an area of practice and is an appropriate location for occupational therapy practitioners to concentrate interventions in when working with families with children with ASD.



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