Date of Award


Degree Type

Selective Evidence-Based Medicine Review

Degree Name

Master of Science in Health Sciences - Physician Assistant


Physician Assistant Studies

Department Chair

John Cavenagh, MBA, PhD, PA-C


Objective- The objective of this selective EBM review is to determine whether or not “Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) positively increases socialization skills in children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) compared to no interaction with animals?”

Study Design- Systematic review of three randomized controlled trials (RCTs) published in English language peer reviewed journals between 2015 and 2016.

Data sources- One single blinded RCT and two double blinded RCTs were found through PubMed.

Outcome(s) Measured- All three studies measured change in social communication in children with ASD using a Social Responsiveness Scale, Pedagogical Analysis and Curriculum Test, and Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale.

Results- All three RCTs support how AAT positively improves socialization in children with ASD. Gabriels et al. with a p-value of 0.003 was able to support a significant improvement in social communication skills in children with ASD participating in AAT compared to children with ASD not receiving AAT using t-score and chi square analyses as well as change in mean from baseline, SD, and effect size. Borgi et al. with a p-value of 0.034 supported increased socialization in children with ASD compared to a control group using ANOVA F-score analysis and change from baseline mean scores. Steiner and Kertesz with a p-value<0.000 did support an increase in socialization in children with ASD participating in AAT compared to a control group. However, only a PAC score was recorded and no further analyses were discussed, so the study is not reliable.

Conclusions- AAT seems to be an effective therapy to positively change socialization skills in children with ASD based on these three RCTs. However, more reliable studies including larger sample sizes over longer periods of time with more detailed analyses should be performed to support the long term effects of AAT on socialization specifically in children with ASD.