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Dogs may help children with autism

MONTREAL, Oct. 22 (UPI) -- Man's best friend -- the dog -- may help children with autism lower anxiety, researchers in Canadian suggest.

Researchers at the Universite de Montreal suggest specifically trained service dogs help children with autism lower anxiety and enhance socialization skills.

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The study, published in Psychoneuroendocrinology, found the dogs lowered the children's levels of cortisol -- a hormone produced in response to stress. In addition, parents on average counted 33 problematic behaviors in their child prior to living with the dog and 25 while living with the animal.

"Our findings showed that the dogs had a clear impact on the children's stress hormone levels. I have not seen such a dramatic effect before," Sonia Lupien said in a statement. "Our results lend support to the potential behavioral benefits of service dogs for autistic children."

Lupien and colleagues measured cortisol levels in 42 children with autism in three experimental conditions -- prior to and during the introduction of a service dog to the family, and after the dog was removed.

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