Can Pets Help Children With Autism?

By April 29 | See Comments

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Can Pets Help Children With Autism?

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We know how introducing a pet into your kids’ lives can be beneficial. It helps kids develop many important traits and character, such as better self-esteem and responsibility. Researchers say that pets can help autistic kids in particular, in social situations.

What the research had to say

Studies have shown that kids with autism experience lesser stress in social situations when they have pets for company. Previously, researchers had found that autistic kids with dogs showed better social skills thank those without. More recently, researchers have found that it’s not just dogs that can boost kids’ social skills, but any pet; even a spider for that matter.The researchers studied 70 families that had autistic kids. A majority of the families had

dogs

and cats, while the others had fish, rabbits, birds, reptiles and rodents for pets. Researchers noticed that kids showed greater assertiveness in social situations when they had pets. Kids were more likely to ask people for information, introduce themselves and answer people when they grew up with pets in the house, as opposed to otherwise. Kids with autism usually have difficulties with these social skills, but adopting a pet seemed to act as just the social lubricant that was needed.In another study, researchers observed the physiological arousal levels in kids with the help of a wrist band, when they were allowed to play with guinea pigs. The wrist band measured any kind of electrodermal activity that occurred, when they were excited, stressed or active. What they noticed was that autistic kids had lower levels of arousal when they were playing with pets, while the other kids showed the exact opposite results. Researchers went on to conclude that some pets may help lower stress levels in autistic kids, thereby helping them interact better in social situations.

Should you be adopting a pet?

The lingering question that parents of autistic kids want to ask is if they should be getting their kids a pet. Despite what the researches have to say, parents with autistic kids should not leap to bring a pet into the household. There are many other factors that have to be taken into account before taking the call. If the child is highly sensitive to noises and tends to get agitated due to these triggers, then it may work against the cause. Such kids can easily turn agitated every time the dog barks. Autistic children have highly individual traits, due to which while bringing a pet into the life may help some kids, it may not help in some other cases. Parents would do good to consult an expert before they decide if they should be adopting a pet into their household.

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