Welcome to the April edition of Ask Dr. Emily!

We often receive questions that we want to share with all our readers. To help with this,  Dr. Emily Rastall, a clinical psychologist at Seattle Children’s Autism Center, will share insights in a question and answer format.

We welcome you to send us your questions and Dr. Rastall will do her best to answer them each month. Send your questions to theautismblog@seattlechildrens.org.

Q: My friend told me that she adds a lot of broccoli sprouts to her child’s food to improve autism symptoms. Does this actually work or is it safe to give him sulforaphane supplements? Anything else I should add to his food?

A: Thank you for your questions! In 2014 we published a blog related to sulforaphane supplements. I hope this helps provide some answers.

Q: Hi! Is there any particular dog breed that is best for therapy pets for children with autism?

A: This is a great question and one that I get often. As for any pet, you may welcome into your home, you will want to consider the size of the dog based on where you live and whether anyone in your family has allergies to pet dander. Ultimately, you want a dog that is well-behaved and that is easily trained. So you will want a breed that has a calm demeanor and a high level of intelligence, such as a golden retriever or lab. (There are a lot of other breeds out there that fit these criteria, but these are two that most know well.)

Important info to consider when considering a therapy dog

  • We caution you about promises made by agencies selling ‘autism therapy dogs’ and the unintended financial strain (on-going therapy, vet bills, food, etc) and possible family stress burden if the dog is not a good fit.
  • There is no credible evidence or research showing therapy dogs reduce the risk of elopement. It should not be the primary intervention or focus of the dog or animal. Locks on doors and windows, behavioral intervention, ID wear, and GPS should be primary effort when dealing with eloping, wandering, or bolting.
  • Some data shows therapy animals are effective for reducing anxiety in children which can help reduce tantrums and meltdowns.

The following agencies have been recommended by parents over the years. Inclusion on this list does not imply our (Seattle Children’s Autism Center) endorsement.

AutismSpeaks provides information about therapy dogs:

https://www.autismspeaks.org/site-wide/therapy-dogs