In the past few decades, the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder has appeared to increase significantly in the United States. Parents that have children with autism often spend a significant amount of time accompanying their child to therapy, fighting for what their child needs, and making sure their child is happy and healthy. As the prevalence of autism rose, service dog began to be used as an additional tool. Since then, pediatric autism assistance dogs have become relatively common. They are known to be trained for tasks like tethering, where the dog is physically attached to a child by a cord, and tracking, where the dog can locate a child if the child were to run away. Ultimately, the dog is there to ensure that the child is safe. However, the service dogs have an impact that reaches beyond safety. This Independent Study explores the social impact of pediatric autism assistance dogs on the children that have them and their families. Specifically, I consider how the dogs affect participation in social outings, social acknowledgment of the child, and the amount of social interactions the child and family partake in. In order to do this, I observed a service dog graduation event at 4 Paws for Ability and interviewed six parents of children with autism assistance dogs through the same organization. Ultimately, I found that pediatric autism assistance dogs impact social outings, social acknowledgment, and social interaction. Together, they have the ability to increase social integration for children with autism and their families.


Matsuzawa, Setsuko


Sociology and Anthropology


Social and Behavioral Sciences


Autism, Assistance Dogs, Social Integration

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2017 Julia B. Rothschild