Google+ Authentic Parenting: Can a Pet Help an Autistic Child?

Friday, March 11, 2016

Can a Pet Help an Autistic Child?

Pets bring joy into our lives in so many ways. If you have had a bad day, a dog is always there to

greet you with a wagging tail and lots of excitement. Cats are less demonstrative, but as many cat owners will attest, cats can be very affectionate and loving with their owners too, and it is lovely to have a cat to cuddle up to on a cold winter’s night.

Children and pets usually go together like peanut butter and jelly. One compliments the other and children get a great deal out of pet ownership, not least a sense of responsibility. But autistic children are different to other kids. They dislike changes to their routines and often lack social skills. So can a pet help an autistic child adjust to the world?

Research into Autism, Pets and Kids 

Research in the field of pets for kids with autism is fairly limited. A lot of the research carried out to date has involved dogs, but a study in Australia looked at how autistic children interacted with guinea pigs. Of the studies that have taken place, preliminary results are positive, and researchers found that introducing a pet was a positive experience.

Unconditional Love 

As we know, pets love us unconditionally. For an autistic child who struggles to find acceptance from his peer group, this is a very positive thing. Pets help build a child’s self-esteem and confidence. The child can spend time with their new friend without fear of ridicule or bullying, which for older children is very important.

 Reducing Anxiety Levels 

Autistic children are very affected by external stimuli. They hate loud noises, lights, people, and all these things can produce a stress response. When a pet is introduced, the child is distracted from the things they don’t like and concentrates on the animal instead. This reduces their anxiety levels because stroking the animal is comforting to them.

 A pet at home can help an autistic child develop a sense of responsibility. Even the smallest of pets require careful looking after. Allowing an autistic child to take care of a pet (under close supervision of course), will teach them empathy and responsibility. These are both skills autistic children will benefit from learning.

 Every Child is Different 

Not all autistic children respond well to a pet. Some find the experience frightening or react in an aggressive manner. Others can’t cope with the extra sensory stimulation being with a pet entails. The important thing is to do what’s best for your child. Have a trial run by taking them to a petting zoo or round to a friend’s house that has pets to see how they react. If the reaction is not what you were hoping for, persevere and let them watch the animal quietly for a few sessions before you suggest any petting.

 Pets such as Dorkie puppies from can really help autistic children in so many ways, so it is worth arranging some low-key contact sessions to see if your child is receptive.

Image: Cia de Photo



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