Introducing your autistic child to the world of animals could be beneficial in improving their communication and social skills. Many people find themselves surprised by the effect that our furry friends have on their autistic children.
Formally called animal-assisted therapy, being around pets, whether they are household pets or structured interactions, can be a great addition to treatment for children with autism and can offer both physical and emotional benefits. Animal-assisted therapy could include bringing an animal into the home, or something more structured, like horseback riding or interacting with dolphins. This interaction with animals has been shown to “help children with autism become more physically developed and improve their strength, coordination, and physical abilities.” They also develop more self-confidence and have a better sense of well-being just from the joy that is felt when being around animals.
While further research is needed to determine the effects and confirm the benefits of animal-assisted therapy on autistic children, a number of studies have suggested it could help. A study in 1970 found that children interacting with dolphins increase a child’s attention, enhance their thinking, help them learn faster, and retain information longer. In addition, a more recent study found that children who played with a live dog were happier and more aware of their surroundings, compared to the children who played with a stuffed dog.
If you are considering animal-assisted therapy programs, talk with your child’s doctor, as there may be horseback-riding, dolphin-therapy, or other animal-therapy programs in your area that the doctor could refer you to. If you are ready to bring an animal into the home, consider a service dog who has been trained to work with children with autism. These can be wonderful additions to the family.
If your child has been diagnosed with autism, give us a call at 512-382-6661 or visit our currently enrolling page on our website here to see if they qualify.
Resource: EverydayHealth Photo: CBSNews
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