Read to Dogs Program for ASD


Read to Dogs Program for ASD

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The Judith A Bassett Canid Education & Conservation Center (JABCECC), located in Santa Ysabel, California, is starting a Read to Dogs program which involves the development, implementation, and analysis of a pilot study whose goal is to investigate how a novel read to dogs program can provide support to children on the autism spectrum (ASD). The pilot study will take place in San Diego, California, involve 10 to 20 students aged 6 to 10 years old, and last for up to 3 months.

There is growing evidence that reading out loud in the presence of a dog improves comprehension in children, including those with autism. While the exact mechanisms by which these improvements take place are not definitively known, it is thought that the presence of the dog decreases the readers stress level thus creating an atmosphere more conducive to learning.  There is also growing evidence that animal assisted therapy contributes to improved social skills in individuals with autism. To date, there are no controlled studies designed to determine the efficacy of a custom reading program, in combination with a therapy dog, for improving reading comprehension and social skills in children with ASD. The program will create a marriage between work done in animal assisted therapy and that done regarding best teaching practices for children with ASD.  

The animals used in this program will not only serve as static elements but will be trained to be active participants within the therapy, serving to reinforce words and concepts within the reading material.  We will partner with autism spectrum groups to identify children will be appropriate for inclusion and with animal assisted therapy dog organizations.  The JABCECC's part be to develop the protocols and assessing the efficacy of these programs.   In addition, the stories, which will be specifically crafted to be used in the program, will include elements that have been found to enhance learning in children with ASD.


Read to Dogs Program

  1. Identification of therapeutic reading components (e.g., images, social context, etc.) and the creation of stories tailored to increase the benefits of reading to dogs as it may improve communication and social skills as well as reading comprehension.
  2. Development of the protocol (e.g., identification of children, methods of intervention, etc.).
  3. An animal assisted therapy training model that is appropriate and specific to the needs of the project.
  4. Identification of human resources best suited for implementation of the project (e.g., project managers, children’s authors, dog trainers, study coordinators and evaluators).
  5. Questionnaires and assessments for evaluating the efficacy of the intervention.
  6. Data collection methods and analysis.
  7. Publication and presentations of study results.

Read to Dogs Objectives

  1.  Improving the communicative social skills of children with ASD through a novel read to dogs program.
  2. Improving reading comprehension of children with ASD through a novel read to dogs program.
  3.  Determine the efficacy of a novel read to dogs program with the long-term objective of developing a program that can be implemented on a wide scale.

Read to Dogs Budget

Budget Item                                                   Amount
Animal assisted therapy model                       $5,000
Animal handlers/trainers                                 $5,000                                    
On-site evaluators                                           $7,500
Materials/resources development                   $5,550
Program development/management               $23,750
Study conduct                                                 $14,000

Materials/resources development                  $750
Technology/equipment                                   $1,200
Travel and lodging                                          $2,500
Dog treats, toys, accessories                          $200
Total Costs                                                     $65,350
* Figures are close approximations.