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Dogs can provide comfort and companionship to kids with autism.

It's no secret that diagnosis rates for autism, both in the United States and around the world, have skyrocketed over the last couple of decades. The upside to the increasing prevalence of this condition is that more people are becoming aware of it, pushing researchers further into finding causes, treatments and cures, while also helping parents better tend to their children who may be on the spectrum. As a result, new developments are frequently making headlines, offering more support and relief to families struggling with autism. 

One recent study found that households with dogs may provide some real help to children with autism. According to HealthDay News, researchers at the University of Missouri conducted a survey of 70 parents whose kids are on the spectrum. Two-thirds of these families owned dogs, and of that group, 94 percent reported their children had formed strong bonds with canine friends.

"Children with autism spectrum disorders often struggle with interacting with others, which can make it difficult for them to form friendships," said Gretchen Carlisle, a research fellow with the school's Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction, in an official statement. "Children with autism may especially benefit from interacting with dogs, which can provide unconditional, nonjudgmental love and companionship to the children."

The study, which was published in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing, determined that dogs can help relieve stress in children on the spectrum, as well as provide these kids with opportunities for learning responsibility. By acting as a "social lubricant," as Carlisle puts it, canine friends offer autistic kids greater capabilities for socialization.

Check back with this blog for news on other promising studies, such as the link between autism and nutrition.