The Project

Lincoln Education Assistance with Dogs (LEAD)

This project will be looking at the effect of dog intervention and relaxation intervention in a classroom setting for children aged 8- and 9- years.  Half of the children who take part will be typically developing, from a mainstream school and the other half will be children with special needs from a specialist school. Some children will take part in the intervention as a class whereas others will take part individually.

Children will be assigned at random to one of 3 groups- with dog, with relaxation activity, no intervention. The children who are placed in the dog intervention group will go through a familiarisation stage before the dog intervention. This will ensure that the results are not due to novelty effects of being with a dog in a classroom for the first time. Prior to the intervention, parents will be asked to complete a questionnaire on socioeconomic status and empathy. Every child will complete some questionnaires (self-esteem and anxiety) and do a language/cognitive task before the intervention, straight after the intervention, 6 weeks later, 6 months later and 1 year later. This will demonstrate if the interventions have an effect on the measured abilities. While doing these tasks each child will be asked to wear a special watch to measure the child’s galvanic skin response.

Salivary cortisol samples will be collected from each participant using the passive drool method. This will require the child to spit into a special tube. The samples will be sent off for cortisol analysis and then destroyed.

Our design closely mirrors real-life scenarios. Knowledge about if AAI works, which effects it has on our behaviour (physiological, psychological, socio-emotional, motor and cognitive behaviour) and which target groups it works best with at which time intervals will be of significant benefit to researchers and to the wider community. This can lead to exciting policy changes to improve daily practice in a wide range of educational settings.

The Importance of the Results

The results of the proposed project will be disseminated widely, to the scientific community via high-impact peer-reviewed publications, to educators via practitioners’ journals, to the general public via charities, via our established dog bite prevention channels (e.g. Blue Dog website) and via the media. Our results will also be utilised to inform and advise policy-makers, educators and administrators on the efficacy of the interventions.

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