Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), or most commonly referred to as autism, is a disorder that shows a broad range of conditions and difficulties with social skills, behavioral aspects, speech, and nonverbal communication. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in every 160 children in the world has Autism Spectrum Disorder. ASDs begin in childhood at around age 2 to 3 but can also be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Children with ASD may have severe disabilities and sometimes require life-long care and support, however, in some cases, people with ASD can live independently.
Humans and pets have always had a bond in many exceptional ways over the years. Pet companionship has brought plenty of positive effects on everyone. Pets teach us about responsibility, keep our spirits high, keep us active, make us happy, and more importantly give us unconditional love. And now, it is becoming popular in helping people with Autism Spectrum Disorder. There are plenty of studies and feedback from a medical professional that interaction from pets certainly helps in the physical, educational, mental, and emotional aspects of a person with Autism.
Whether it is a dog, cat, turtle, fish, birds, hamsters, or a guinea pig. Continue reading as we discuss comprehensively the proven ways pets are helping children with autism.
Mental and Emotional Benefits
Children with Autism manifest signs of a better well being, enhanced problem-solving skills, assertiveness, and improved mental state. This also helps them to be more relaxed thus resulting in less anxiety and stress. Moreover, it also develops leisure and recreational skills which further enhance healthier well-being.
Children with autism also find it hard to express feelings and be socially active, so by having pets, they will find companionship and friendship. Pets can stand as their new best friends who will reciprocate everything without the anxiety of being judged or disappointments. People are most likely to engage socially when pets are present, which is good for children with autism. Applied Behavior Analysis or ABA for autistic children can also be incorporated and practiced together with Animal Assisted Therapy. Applied Behavior Analysis therapy modifies behavior using positive reinforcement. Incorporating this with having the pet shows positive outcomes afterward.
It can also reduce family stress, both the children and the parents. Children with ASD smile and laugh more when there are animals around them. The pets can also help overcome fear. Their presence gives a calming focus for a person with autism. Dogs for example become a companion for dental clinics and hospitals to help kids reduce fear and anxiety.
Pets also bring significant benefits physically. It can improve children with autism’s motor skills, balance, blood pressure level, body coordination, mobility, can lower the risk of depression, and many more. Pets can keep us active whether we like it or not.
It can also promote safety in the road, walking at sidewalks and crossing the street will be easier with animal assistance like dogs. Dogs can oversee their owner’s safety and they are always ready to bark and defend their owner since they are very protective-especially of kids in the household. They can also promote exercise through playing games like running, walking, and lifting. Tasks including pets like ball throwing and fetch, stroll in parks, giving commands and other things that require moving allows children with ASD to move around. Big and small movements are beneficial for them.
Children have plenty of learning needs, however, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD need more guidance and support. It is important to maximize all of your resources so you can encourage them to learn more. They are also over-sensitive or undersensitive to sensory stimuli. They can be bothered by certain smells, sounds, and feelings. Pets can be a sensory tool that can help them reduce the rest and process more information to them.
For example, touching and smelling pets like cats or guinea pigs can help their sensory perception. Also, dogs lying down on them can bring calmness whenever they are anxious. Pets can encourage learning new vocabulary and concept learning. If the animals need something, the child can discern that it needs something, it becomes a powerful tool to communicate with other people. Having a pet can encourage children with ASD to improve their communication skills and expand their vocabulary.
Motivating children who have autism spectrum disorder is an often difficult task. With pets involved, children are more encouraged to join group tasks, interactions, and overall eagerness to learn and socialize. They will be more motivated to learn, motivated to go out, motivated to socialize, and do things. It is like an energy booster and a tool to make children with ASD do better. Pets can motivate owners to build more friendships. It also gives new opportunities for kids. A child with autism can be a routine, it is mostly organized and has limited tasks. However, having a pet can persuade a child to do something different and exciting.
With all of the benefits mentioned, still parents need to consider their kid’s situation. Not everything is one size fits all in terms of autism. You have to be careful in choosing a pet. Not every kid can handle big and active pets like dogs who bark or cats who constantly run and jump around. You can try first with small and low maintenance pets like guinea pigs or fishes. Having a pet is just a small decision for any other family, but for a household with children with ASD, it should be taken very seriously.
Pets certainly bring benefits to our lives. Fortunately, they also help people with medical needs. A child with ASD can be happy, converse more, and show other positive social behaviors when they are around their pets. They can fight loneliness, anxiety, and depression. Also, behavioral problems are decreased and social interaction is increased with pets involved, Last but not the least, a pet will love their owner without any judgments and reservations, which is what children with Autism Spectrum Disorder need.