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Do Pets Have Positive Effects for Children with Autism Spectrum?

 

We have a special relationship with our pets, and they help us in so many ways! 

    • Offering us daily camaraderie

    • Helping us with tasks

    • Protecting us

    • Providing emotional comfort

Our pets make meaningful contributions to our well-being every day! 

The benefits of pets are especially evident through the positive influence they have on children with autism. In a study that evaluates the impact of pet ownership for participants with autism spectrum disorder, numerous positive themes emerged. 

Emotional and Social Benefits

    • Pride and Responsibility: Pet responsibilities like dog walks and meal prep can easily add some structure to a scheduled daily routine for individuals with ASD. These responsibilities can lead to healthy lifestyles and increased social awareness including daily exercise and perspective taking. By learning how to care for another, pet ownership develops self-confidence and compassionate consideration for others.

    • Emotional Support and Self-Expression: Pets provide emotional support and a wonderful outlet for self-expression. Individuals with ASD can experience ease in expressing thoughts or desires to their pets without fear of judgment. Also, the soothing energy of a dog or cat can facilitate calmness or soothe emotional turmoil in a comfortable way. 

    • Added Social Connection: Many individuals with ASD experience friendship through their pets. Pets are a great alternative to traditional social interactions. Interacting with a pet allows them to practice social adaptation to an animal’s cues. It can also help them unpack complex ideas to a trusted friend!

    • Community Involvement and Improved Social Connections: Pets facilitate community involvement and improved social connections. With an emotional support animal by their side, an individual with autism has a helpful bridge to engage and relate with others. For example, taking the dog to the park provides that individual with a sense of comfort while simultaneously providing them with an interesting topic of conversation. That individual can relate to other pet owners and share details about their pets, which segues into other topics of conversation!

Cognitive and Quality-of-Life Benefits

Pets also contribute to cognitive well-being in unexpected ways. Individuals with pets often experience less stress or anxiety, which can lead to improved focus and engagement during academic, communication, or motor development sessions. In conjunction with ABA therapy in Collegeville, PA or one of our many other clinics, a pet’s presence can improve: 

    • Improved Motor Skills 

    • Enhanced Emotional Stability

    • Increased Attention Span

    • Enhanced Social Confidence

    • Improved Sensory Regulation

Considerations for Parents When Introducing Pets

Dogs, cats, and any other pet with a calm temperament can be wonderful companions for children with autism. Before bringing the pet home:

    • Discuss important responsibilities with your child

    • Designate a safe space for the animal

    • Create a schedule or visual board to help your child track pet care duties and remain involved in the plan.

While progressing through ABA therapy in Drexel Hill, PA or one of our other clinics, our therapy team will gladly help you brainstorm practical pet ideas that align with your child’s ABA plan. Ideas might include practicing communication with their pet, motor skills like grooming their fur, and other relevant tips to promote well-rounded learning and development with the support of their pet!