The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) recently announced it awarded a $33,700 grant to Texas Tech University to fund a study to examine the effect of an integrated animal-assisted intervention (AAI) in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) on children’s academic performance and physiological stress.
The year-long study, conducted by Drs. Alexandra Protopopova and Breanna N. Harris will examine the saliva of children with autism spectrum disorder and intellectual developmental disabilities during ABA-based interventions, both with and without AAI. The saliva samples will be tested for cortisol, a hormone closely associated with stress. The study’s investigators anticipate that participants provided with therapy dogs will exhibit lower stress levels than those without.
“The goal of this study is to determine if interaction with a therapy dog during an ABA-based intervention results in improved academic response and a decrease in child stress levels. The results of this study may provide support for incorporating animals into ABA-based therapy, a bridging of two beneficial therapies for individuals with ASD/IDD that could result in the emergence of advancements in behavioral science.”
— Alexandra Protopopova, PhD, Principal Investigator & Assistant Professor, Animal and Food Sciences, Texas Tech University