Pets and Autism

Children who are suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder can be dramatically benefitted with pets. Pets may offer more than comfort. Kids with autism are highly individual and unique and pets can help them to improve the level of social interaction and bring about physiological changes. More significantly, children with a pet in their home are more likely to engage in behaviors such as introducing themselves and their pet, asking for information or responding to other people's questions.

Benefits of Pets for Autistic Children

How can a pet help my child to engage with others?

Kids with autism don't always readily engage with others, but if there's a pet in the home that the child is bonded with and a visitor starts asking about the pet, the child is more likely to respond. Studies suggest that in the presence of companion animals, children with autism spectrum disorders function better socially. The proximity of animals eases the stress that children with autism may experience in social situations. A pet shows unconditional love and acceptance to an autistic child, something they might not receive from their peers which are another great reason for them to share their time with a pet.

What are the other aspects where my child will be benefitted?

Many experts now feel, owning a pet is truly beneficial for children with autism because it helps them learn empathy as well as responsibility all due to the fact they enjoy grooming, feeding and looking after their pets under the supervision of their parents. Smaller pets like guinea pigs, gerbils and hamsters are ideal because looking after them is a lot easier. If this is not the concern then it is best to find a pet which comforts the autistic child.

How shall I choose a pet for my child?

Introduction of pet always has to be slow. It needs constant monitoring by parents to make sure everything goes smoothly. This is the only way to see if a child would react well to a pet or might react violently or aggressively to being around a pet. For an autistic child, it would be better if given the chance to watch pet first without being able to come into contact with them. It might take a few visits to a small animal center before the transition to touching a pet could be allowed to happen. If the child remains calm, they could be allowed to have some physical contact with the animal they have been watching. This could then lead to them being allowed to hold the pet and interact with them in a calm and gentle way. But patience is a virtue and as long as a child stays happy and does not get upset about the situation, allowing them to interact with a chosen animal could be the best thing for them and over time can really improve their social skills.

Bringing a pet home is a big decision for the family. Ensure to involve the child’s therapist while making this decision. After when the pet is brought home, monitor the progress and pay regular visit to the therapist to know how much difference it is bringing in your child.


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