PETS AND AUTISM

HOW PETS IMPROVE THE CONDITION OF AUTISTIC PERSONS

There’s virtually no reason to contend the logic behind why people all over the world keep pets in their home and place of work. From cute and fuzzy fur balls to majestic and rare animals, we are naturally drawn into caretaking this variety of creatures in a list of good perceptions and positive outlook that anyone can easily come up with.  Many of us find our pets very adorable that we decide to keep them on the spot, and such irresistibility is the main reason why we end up keeping cats, rabbits, hedgehogs, hamsters, and guinea pigs in our homes and offices. But more importantly, there are also instances when we think of our animal companions as the answer to some of our specific needs, which is why a lot of families opt to keep dogs, parrots, geese, and sometimes snakes to guard their homes in one way or another. But these special needs are not only limited to security and safety, and can also include emotional and psychological aspects as well. Through the years, researchers and medical experts have studied a wide range of human disorders and the effects of environmental variables in worsening or improving their condition. One of the more controversial topics of interest is autism spectrum disorder, and several reviews tend to establish a positive relationship between pets and autism.

If you already have a pet in your home, but you don’t want them to be close to your autistic child, partner, or relative, you need to somehow change this mind-set and instead make way for both the pet and the autistic person to interact with each other from time to time. On the other hand, if you don’t have any pet in your place, now’s the right time to keep one especially if you or anyone in the household is diagnosed with autism. But when it comes to recognizing the value of pets for purposes of aiding autism condition, there are still many factors to consider first before letting the autistic person mingle with your existing pet, deciding to buy one from a pet store, or asking one from your friends.

Reminders In Pet Keeping for Autistic Persons

It isn’t wise to just directly choose any animal to keep as pet based on your own preference or that of the autistic person’s because every pet has its own pros and cons in a household setting. Health risks must be factored into the choice of pet, such as asthma, allergic reaction, and phobia. If the whole family is already tied up in certain things, keeping a pet might not be a good idea because they also have needs to be met, such as food, grooming, and attention which might get neglected. As much as possible, you must also determine whether the autistic family member has an interest in animals by letting them see one up close because forcing an autistic person to engage with things they don’t like will not provide positive results.

What Pet to Keep?

Dogs and Cats

It is also crucial that you consider the outcome of the studies made on this specific topic. A research conducted by Gretchen Carlisle, a College of Veterinary Medicine fellow of the Centre for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri, has published some very useful observations regarding the benefits of pets to the conditions of autistic children. The test population was comprised of 70 families with autistic children aged between 8-18, where 70% of them owned dogs, and 50% owned cats.  She found out that in general, children who have pets exhibited better social skills than those who don’t, such as introducing themselves to others, inquiring people about something, and answering questions. Dog owners are also observed to be more socially active compared to other pet owners, which makes these canine companions one of the best, if not the best, type of pet to have. It must also be noted that among dog sizes, children prefer smaller dogs because bigger ones tend to be intimidating and not as adorable.

However, another crowd-funded research called Feline Friends from the same center and institution, is emphasizing the impact of cats in aiding autistic individuals, with the theory that the calm and quiet nature of these feline friends and their therapeutic, soft coat, can provide certain positive effects that cannot be found from any other pets.

Other Pets

Aside from dogs and cats, researchers are also affirmative that other pets can also provide the same benefits as to the aforementioned pet types.  Arachnids, birds, fish, farm animals, and rodents can also be chosen for pet keeping depending on the preference and behaviour of the autistic individual and the family’s knowledge in keeping the pet.

Benefits Provided by Pets

After knowing the type of pet to introduce to your autistic family member, it is only right that you delve into properly understanding how such pet can help the autistic person feel better. Among many things, the following points are the most convincing reasons why pets are great for autistic people.

Erases Feeling of Alienation

Autistic individuals can easily feel a sense of alienation because of their oddness from their neurotypical peers. With a pet on their side who also have its own needs and peculiarities, they will be able to share this uniqueness to their pet and understand that even unique creatures can love and be loved.

Helps in Socializing

Although autistic persons find it hard to communicate directly to other people around them, it is observed that they will respond and engage in conversations whenever their pet is the topic of interest. Even when there’s a guest visiting in the house, or some strangers approaching in public places, as long as they ask questions regarding the pet, the autistic individual will almost have no trouble speaking with them.

Addresses Sensory Needs

Most autistic persons have sensory seeking symptoms, which make them crave for specific sensations. This may trigger autism tantrums when these cravings are not met. Touching their pets can help address their sensory cravings.