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Pet Therapy for Aspergers Kids

Man’s best friend can truly be your Aspie’s best friend, according to some studies on the interaction between pets and Aspergers kids.

Many moms and dads are surprised to see the connection between their youngster and pets. You might see it happening spontaneously — just when you are wondering how to help improve your child’s communication and social skills, you notice that he acts playful, happier, and more focused when around a friend's pet. Or perhaps you have heard about the profound impact pets can have on some Aspergers kids from another parent. Whatever prompts you, it may be time to introduce your Aspie to the world of pets.

Being around household pets or having structured contact with pets can be a great addition to treatment for kids with Aspergers. There are many reports from both parents and clinicians that interacting with pets, formally called animal-assisted therapy, can offer both physical and emotional benefits to these kids.

Animal-assisted therapy can be as simple as bringing a family pet into the household - or as structured as programs that offer horseback riding or swimming with dolphins. Interaction with pets can help Aspergers kids become more physically developed and improve their strength, coordination, and physical abilities. More importantly, many of these children derive much joy from their relationship with pets, which can help them have a better sense of well-being and more self-confidence. Pets can relate to Aspergers kids – and Aspergers kids (who have a hard time relating to peers) can really relate to pets.

While more research is still needed to determine the effects and confirm the benefits of animal-assisted therapy specifically for kids on the spectrum, a number of studies have suggested it can help. In the 1970s, researchers began studying how interactions with dolphins affected kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). They found that being around dolphins increased the children’s attention, enhanced their thinking, helped them learn faster – and retain information longer.

More recently, one study looked at the effects of ASD children interacting with dogs. For this particular study, kids were exposed to a ball, a stuffed dog, or a live dog under the supervision of a therapist. The kids who played with the live dog were in a better mood and more aware of their surroundings than the kids who were exposed to the ball or stuffed dog.

If you are interested in animal-assisted therapy for your Aspie, talk with your child’s doctor. 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 make the commitment of bringing a pet into your home, you may want to consider a service dog that has been specially trained to work with ASD kids. These dogs can be wonderful additions to families and can even accompany kids when they are away from home (e.g., school), helping to keep them calm and comforted.

Pets quickly become a treasured member of the family, offering love and companionship. And for the family that includes an Aspergers boy or girl, the rewards can be even greater.

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10 comments:

Anonymous said...

My 15 year old aspie daughter adores animals.. She has 2 dogs,a rabbit and 2 turtles....The relationship she has with her dogs is amazing to watch espically with her Border collie buster whom she has had since she was 4....he adores her and he has taught her many things including empathy and how to care 4 another living creature .... When she is sick or is about to meltdown he has his way of letting me know....unconditional love I love watching them together.

Anonymous said...

For several years now we have said we wanted to get a large dog for my aspie son....but he is only 4 years and adding a dog in the mix is a huge responsibility!! We are hoping in a few years to get a dog but for now we visit the pet store on a regular basis and play with the puppies there!

Parenting Aspergers Children - Support Group said...

Jennifer Romano I have a ten year old with aspergers and also have a 5 month old rottie, my son loves the responsibity of feeding her and loves to help with teaching her tricks etc, they are great friends :o)
about an hour ago · Like
Alice Cranford My 7 year old Aspie is a little scared around dogs but he loves cats.
about an hour ago · Like
Jessica Seng Jensen We have had an Autism Service dog for my 9yo for 3 months now. She is working wonders!
54 minutes ago · Like
Judith Mehetabel Linda Ha read something about the same before... A Friend Like Henry...
35 minutes ago · Like
Michele Jaber My 14 year old aspie is terrified of dogs barking :(
22 minutes ago · Like
Jennifer Dubois My son loves animals, always has had a close bond with them.
3 minutes ago · Like

Anonymous said...

We have just introduced a dog into our school to help all the children. But we will be interested to see the effect on the children with Aspergers particularly in helping them to calm down.

Parenting Aspergers Children - Support Group said...

Deborah NapolitanoAust My 10 year old loves animals we have a pug,2cats,2 hermit crabs,and this week end were going to adopt a puppy.he so excited.
about an hour ago · Like

Anna Mel Goff my Aspie son loves cats. Dogs intimidate him for some reason, but when he gets to know them he's fine around them. It just takes him some getting used to.
about an hour ago · Like

Nadege Ricou Goode My sons keep hassling me to get a dog..might get one now..a very small one maybe.. ;O)
about an hour ago · Like

Susan Lish Since we got our kittens in april we see our son out of his bedroom so much more now. Best thing we ever did xxxx
35 minutes ago · Like

Darrell Smith hi aunty sue, sleeping at mandys tonight so will be able to get photo for upload, hopefully you can get them done quick haha
32 minutes ago · Like

Susan Lish ok, will do xxxx

Anonymous said...

For those who find the barking of dogs scary or overwhelming, seek out greyhounds. They are wonderful, calm, loving "couch potatoes" when they aren't out running laps in the yard for exercise. And best of all they rarely bark by nature of the breed. We have had two greyhounds for nine years (our 2nd & 3rd) who get along quite well with our 19 year old son who has Asperger's. I think the dogs average maybe a bark a year and then it only happens when they're playing together. Most areas have greyhound rescue groups who should be able to help you adopt an appropriate greyhound or help you find one to visit.

Anonymous said...

my 4 year old is amazing with animals, seems to have no fear and quite a calming affect on them. We keep chickens and although they run from us , she can quite happily pick them up and they relax. We also have a cavalier which she tells us is "my best friend" . She has also been around horses which also seem to relax around her, and she to them x

Anonymous said...

We're thinking of getting a dog as a companion for my teenage son. I know that I will be the primary caregiver for the dgo but think that my son would benefit from having a dog. He has asked for a dog in the past but I never wanted the extra work. Now that I have relented he seems indifferent but he's that way with a lot of things which he wants but refuses to admit.

I was wondering if there are some of you out there that may have adopted a dog when your child was a bit older and not had a dog before. How did your child adapt to the dog? Did it turn out to be a good companion for your child?

We've always had cats. Our older cats were very social and the cats that we adopted when those cats passed are just not as social and loving. People used to tell me that our old cats were "very dog like" because they were so people oriented.

BTW, we're thinking young adult dog which has had basic training, not a puppy.

Anonymous said...

My son always said he was a cat person and was very dismayed when I told him his little sister would be getting a dog for her birthday last year. The dog was an 8 week old chihuahua puppy. After some initial trepidation (but in agreement that the puppy was cute), Dylan warmed up to the dog quickly. He didn't like how she was preferring to be with me or his sister at the beginning but I told him if he took more of a role in feeding her and walking her, Peanut would start to want to be around him more so he got more involved and Peanut started chosing him sometimes over us. He loved to feel so loved! Now he showers Peanut with affection and is Peanut's primary playmate when she's ready to chase a ball or play with a squeak toy. After a few weeks of having Peanut, Dylan said something like "She likes me, mom. She really wants to be with me. That doesn't usually happen with people." It broke my heart, to say the least, but it also made me happy that we had Peanut. She has a very friendly disposition and she likes to cuddle and play. Peanut has done a world of good for Dylan.

I think it might make more sense to get a puppy that can adapt to your family vs. an older dog that you have to adapt to, but if not, just make sure the dog is laid back and friendly.

Anonymous said...

Cats can be a good choice, especially an older cat because they are calm and do not create to much stimulation but plenty of of fun and love. Dogs barking can be too much stimulation. My live in boyfriend and I are both aspies and adore our cats. I spent a of of time in solitary more but welcome the company of my cats. Dogs are often too loud and boisterous.

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