Dogs are the most common service animal, but for children with autism spectrum disorder, cats may be more therapeutic.

A new study reported in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing found ordinary shelter cats had a calming effect on children with ASD, improving their empathy toward others while reducing bullying, hyperactivity and separation anxiety.

“Cats, and companion animals in general, offer unconditional acceptance and someone to talk to that listens, and caring for an animal can help with learning responsibility,” said study author Gretchen Carlisle, a research scientist at the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri veterinary college.

But dogs require more care and attention than cats, adding to the burden parents of children with autism already face.

They also are more active and energetic, which can trigger autistic children.

“Many children with autism have sensory issues and when a dog is barking in your face, it can be really overwhelming, whereas cats just sit beside you and are less overwhelming from a sensory standpoint,” Carlisle explained.

Her small study followed 11 families with autistic children ages 6-14. One group of families adopted a shelter cat and was followed for 18 weeks. A second group without a cat was followed for 18 weeks, then adopted a cat for another 18 weeks.

“Our study,” the researchers wrote, ”Found cat adoption was associated with greater empathy and less separation anxiety for children with ASD, along with fewer problem behaviors including externalizing, bullying and hyperactivity/inattention. Parents and children reported strong bonds to the cats.”

All the cats were screened for a calm temperament. “We specifically selected cats aged 10 months to 4 years because there is prior work that younger cats are more social with kids with autism, and adult temperament tends to be set at 10 months with cats, so these are younger cats with an adult temperament,” Carlisle told HealthDay News.

Commenting on the study, Dr. Melissa Nishawala, director of the Autism Spectrum Disorder Research and Clinical Program at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone Health in New York City, said that though the study was small, “these are promising findings that mirror what I see in practice.”

Photo by Andriyko Podilnyk


Jun 6, 2023

Aspirin Helps Prevent Digestive Cancers

It wasn’t that long ago that doctors advised taking a low dose aspirin a day as a preventive against heart attacks. Then, new studies found the risk of aspirin-induced internal bleeding outweighed any benefits it might confer, except in older patients at risk of heart problems.

Yet, there’s still enough uncertainty about the overall preventive benefits that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force gives that recommended use a grade of B, and says there’s just not enough evidence to decide aspirin’s benefit for younger people. Just last week, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued a final research plan on aspirin use to prevent cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer.

But now one of the largest and most comprehensive studies reports that aspirin can reduce the risk of digestive tract cancers between 22% and 38%.

Researchers analyzed of 113 observational studies investigating cancers in the general population published up to last year, finding that regular use of aspirin significantly reduced the risk of most types of digestive tract cancers, including liver and pancreatic cancers that are almost always fatal.

Published last month in the Annals of Oncology, the report found aspirin use was linked to:

  • 27% reduced risk of bowel cancer;
  • 33% reduced risk of oesophageal cancer;
  • 39% reduced risk of gastric cardia (a part of the stomach);
  • 36% reduced risk of stomach cancer;
  • 38% reduced risk of liver, gallbladder and bile duct cancer;
  • 22% reduced risk of pancreatic cancer.

In an article for ESMO, the oncology professional organization, Dr. Cristina Bosetti (PhD), head of the unit of cancer epidemiology at the Mario Negri Department of Oncology in Milan, said, it appears that the higher aspirin doses the greater the decreased risk.

“We found that the risk of cancer was reduced with increased dose; an aspirin dose between 75 and 100mg a day was associated with a 10% reduction in a person’s risk of developing cancer compared to people not taking aspirin; a dose of 325mg a day was associated with a 35% reduction, and a dose of 500mg a day was associated with a 50% reduction in risk. However, the estimate for high dose aspirin was based on just a few studies and should be interpreted cautiously.

“Our findings on bowel cancer support the concept that higher aspirin doses are associated with a larger reduction in risk of the disease. However, the choice of dose should also take into consideration the potential risk of stomach bleeds, which increases with higher aspirin doses.”

As strong as the results are, the analysis is based on observational studies, meaning the researchers in each of the 113 studies simply collected data from the subjects and reported on the outcome. It’s possible that other factors may have influenced the results of some or all of the 113 studies.

Photo by HalGatewood.com on Unsplash


Jun 6, 2023

Recognizing Nursing Assistants This Special Week

This week – Nursing Assistants Week — we at Green Key Resources want to extend a special thank you to the nation’s certified nursing assistants and recognize the vital work they do.

These are the professionals who do the day-to-day work of caring for patients too ill, too elderly or who are just in need of extra help as they recover.

Never before has so much been asked of the 1.6 million women and men working in nursing and care facilities and hospitals all across the country. Risking their own health, they’ve worked alongside doctors and RNs to care for COVID-19 patients, bathing, turning and feeding those who need the help and answering their calls.

In other times, this work is part of their daily routine. This year, it is heroic work.

Thank you for being there. We appreciate what you do for all of us.