Discovery Park Undergraduate Research Internship Program

"Preference assessment for animals in children with autism"

About the Project

Project Time & Type:
Summer 2015 - DURI
Research area(s):
Psychology, Education, Animal Behavior
Project Description:
Deficits in social behaviors are hallmark characteristics of autism spectrum disorder. Current findings indicate that the presence of animals may improve social behaviors. However, it is unknown whether there are differences in outcomes based on species. There are also no validated strategies for effective and outcome-driven animal selection. This project will focus on the development and evaluation of a new technology to given children with autism a voice in identifying their preferred therapy animal. Both video-based and live preference assessment techniques will be trialed and evaluated.
Expected Student Contributions:
Students work will include hands-on training in working with children with ASD and their families, working with a variety of animal species to be included in the study protocol, preparation of the laboratory space for data collection, setup and trialing of video cameras and technical monitoring devices, pilot testing of the protocol with a small sample of families, preparation of data collection instruments, assistance in the creation and distribution of recruitment materials, and ongoing assistance with data collection. It is anticipated that students will learn essential skills for both research and practice with children with ASD in an interdisciplinary, team driven setting.
Related Website(s):;
Desired Qualifications:
Experience working on human-animal interaction related research, interest in working with children with autism, excellent organizational skills, social competence in dealing with families and children, reliability and conscientiousness
Estimated Weekly Hours:
Department awards independent research credits for this project?
Yes, 4 credit hours

Professor in Charge

O'haire, Marguerite
Comparative Pathobiology / Veterinary Medicine

Student Supervisor

Marguerite O'Haire
Assistant Professor

Cooperating Faculty

Matthew Brodhead
Educational Studies / Education