Why children with autism need pets

While thousands of people can attest to the joy of pet ownership, pets aren’t for everyone, and not everyone is up for the responsibility associated with caring for another living creature. There is one group of people though, who should certainly consider owning a companion animal, and that group is parents of children with autism. Depending on a child’s placement on the autism spectrum, the process of growing up can be a challenge, both for the parents and for the child. Because of this, many parents avoid having pets in their households; after all, who wants one more responsibility? New research casts doubt on that logic, however, indicating there are reasons children with autism benefit from pets. SEE ALSO: Furry friends: How pets benefit your health Research abounds on how pets enrich the lives of their owners; pets do everything from combat depression and detect cancer, to medicate humans with sound vibrations (think purring) and alert owners to conditions like seizures. When it comes to autism, pets do something even more important. New research from the University of Missouri (MU) suggests pets facilitate important communication and interaction skills in children with autism. When pets are present in the home, the classroom, or other social settings, children tend to interact and talk to each other and the adults around them more. “Kids with autism don’t always readily engage with others,” Dr. Gretchen Carlisle explained to MNT, “but if there’s a pet in the home that the child is bonded with and a visitor starts asking about the pet, the child may be more likely to respond. More significantly, however, the data revealed that children with any kind of pet in the home reported being more likely to engage in behaviors such as introducing themselves, asking for information or responding to other people’s questions.” Though it is not clear exactly how pets help children with autism develop better social skills, Carlisle’s research indicated social skills for such children were improved where any pet was involved, though children with the strongest social skills seemed to be in households with small dogs. This is not the first time dog ownership specifically has been indicated as beneficial for children with autism; in April of 2014, research was released showing how important the unconditional love of a dog could be for a child with autism. “Children with autism spectrum disorders often struggle with interacting with others, which can make it difficult for them to form friendships,” Carlisle, who also headed up the 2014 research, told HealthDay at the time. “Children with autism may especially benefit from interacting with dogs, which can provide unconditional, nonjudgmental love and companionship to the children.” The most recent study expands on Carlisle’s earlier work, noting that all pets have some benefit to children with autism, even if dogs seem to be at the top of the list. SEE ALSO: Amazing medical benefits of dogs “Bringing a dog into any family is a big step, but for families of children with autism, getting a dog should be a decision that’s taken very seriously,” Carlisle said. “If a child with autism is sensitive to loud noises, choosing a dog that is likely to bark will not provide the best match for the child and the family. If the child has touch sensitivities, perhaps a dog with a softer coat, such as a poodle, would be better than a dog with a wiry or rough coat, such as a terrier.”The post Why children with autism need pets appeared first on Voxxi.

Pets can be important for children with autism. (Shutterstock)

While thousands of people can attest to the joy of pet ownership, pets aren’t for everyone, and not everyone is up for the responsibility associated with caring for another living creature. There is one group of people though, who should certainly consider owning a companion animal, and that group is parents of children with autism.

Depending on a child’s placement on the autism spectrum, the process of growing up can be a challenge, both for the parents and for the child. Because of this, many parents avoid having pets in their households; after all, who wants one more responsibility? New research casts doubt on that logic, however, indicating there are reasons children with autism benefit from pets.

SEE ALSO: Furry friends: How pets benefit your health

Research abounds on how pets enrich the lives of their owners; pets do everything from combat depression and detect cancer, to medicate humans with sound vibrations (think purring) and alert owners to conditions like seizures. When it comes to autism, pets do something even more important.

New research from the University of Missouri (MU) suggests pets facilitate important communication and interaction skills in children with autism. When pets are present in the home, the classroom, or other social settings, children tend to interact and talk to each other and the adults around them more.

“Kids with autism don’t always readily engage with others,” Dr. Gretchen Carlisle explained to MNT, “but if there’s a pet in the home that the child is bonded with and a visitor starts asking about the pet, the child may be more likely to respond. More significantly, however, the data revealed that children with any kind of pet in the home reported being more likely to engage in behaviors such as introducing themselves, asking for information or responding to other people’s questions.”

Though it is not clear exactly how pets help children with autism develop better social skills, Carlisle’s research indicated social skills for such children were improved where any pet was involved, though children with the strongest social skills seemed to be in households with small dogs. This is not the first time dog ownership specifically has been indicated as beneficial for children with autism; in April of 2014, research was released showing how important the unconditional love of a dog could be for a child with autism.

Girl petting cat
All pets, not just dogs, can make a difference for a child with autism. (Shutterstock)

“Children with autism spectrum disorders often struggle with interacting with others, which can make it difficult for them to form friendships,” Carlisle, who also headed up the 2014 research, told HealthDay at the time. “Children with autism may especially benefit from interacting with dogs, which can provide unconditional, nonjudgmental love and companionship to the children.”

The most recent study expands on Carlisle’s earlier work, noting that all pets have some benefit to children with autism, even if dogs seem to be at the top of the list.

SEE ALSO: Amazing medical benefits of dogs

“Bringing a dog into any family is a big step, but for families of children with autism, getting a dog should be a decision that’s taken very seriously,” Carlisle said. “If a child with autism is sensitive to loud noises, choosing a dog that is likely to bark will not provide the best match for the child and the family. If the child has touch sensitivities, perhaps a dog with a softer coat, such as a poodle, would be better than a dog with a wiry or rough coat, such as a terrier.”

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The post Why children with autism need pets appeared first on Voxxi.