A significant body of research in the field of animal assistance in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) therapy indicates that positive human-animal interactions (HAIs), such as playing with therapy dogs or dogs presence while reading Social Stories, improve the social interactions and the level of the behavioral indicators of positive moods (smiling, laughing) in autistic children. In this chapter, we aim to present a series of evidence-based modalities of including animal-assisted activities in standard therapeutic settings but also in the home environment (e.g., interactions with family animals), targeting the socio-emotional development of autistic children and their optimal communication with the family members, including the companion animals. The studies presented here are discussed from the perspective of potential mechanisms, such as oxytocin system, and several attachment-related views. Our studies point toward the valorization of companion animals in the process of development and optimizing the interpersonal communication abilities of ASD children in a positive and engaging manner for both humans and animals.
Part of the book: Autism