How Dogs Help Children With Autism

Many of us love to hang around with cute, furry, dogs with a soft, wriggling, wet nose. That’s why many families welcome them at home and love them as a part of the household.However, not many of us know that, having dogs in our homes have positive effects, not only to the adult members of the family, but also children.

Animals, in general, play an important role in many people’s lives. They can be used to help in various kinds of therapy. As a matter of fact, at present, more and more studies are slowly unveiling the positive effects that dogs can bring to an autistic child.

What Is Autism?

Autism is a developmental disability distinguished by lack of communication, social interaction and conflict management. Children with Autism have characteristics that fall short on (1) social communication and interaction, (2) limited and repetitive behaviors or interests, (3) unable to perform in a conforming manner the daily activities (4) language skills deficit. Symptoms usually occur in early childhood.

Usually, children with Autism have lower levels of companionship and peer acceptance. That’s why raising a child with Autism causes notable amount of stress due to inappropriate behaviours such as tantrums.

How Do Dogs Help Kids With Autism?

A researcher from the University of Missouri, Gretchen Carlisle, found out that “dogs can help children with autism by acting as a social lubricant.” Since they find it hard to form friendships, children with autism may find “unconditional” and nondiscriminatory companionship with dogs.

In her study, it was found that a number of parents believes  that having a companion dog for their children offers many positive effects, which will be further discussed below..

The Benefits of Companion/Therapy Dogs to Children with Autism

  • Therapy dogs help improve a child’s behaviour with fewer tantrums. Dogs usually positively distract children. Dogs are effective diversion techniques to children with Autism.
  • Therapy dogs help improve the safety of the child. Dogs provide a sense of security in places that seem threatening for the child. This helps parents reduce stress levels for children with problematic behaviours.
  • Therapy dogs help improve the motor skills of the child. Having dogs around enhances the motor skills of children with Autism. For instance, with a companion dogs, children with autism can play with toys, giving them affection, and spend the day grooming and feeding.
  • Therapy dogs make socialization easier for the child. With a therapy dog, a child with autism improves his communication. Dogs help the child relate with random objects and other people.
  • Therapy dogs help develop emotional conditions. Dogs and pets, in general, help children have greater empathy and higher self-esteem, which would help them increase their social participation.

Companion/Therapy Dogs for Children with Autism

Service Dogs

Service dogs are taught to accomplish tasks that assist their owner, which can be very helpful for children with Autism. For instance, service dogs can help in locating autistic children who tend to wander off.

Emotional Support Dogs

These dogs are trained to provide love and comfort. Dogs of this type will help relax autistic children and calm them down whenever they have struggles with their emotions, such as frustrations and anxieties.  

Pets

Even plain ol’ dogs can be of valuable help for children with autism. These kind of dogs may not have specific tasks like that of service and emotional support dogs.But they can also provide joy to autistic children. Even in simple playtimes with their dogs, it enhances the communication and physical activity of the child.

What Traits to Consider When Getting Dogs for Children With Autism

Gentle Disposition

Be sure to select gentle dogs. Choose a playful breed yet understands how to interact with the autistic child without causing injuries.

Large-Sized breeds

Large breed are better for full-body snuggling and hugs and because of its size, they also provide a sense of safety. Children with behavioral problems usually pulls and push objects and sometimes with dogs. Large breeds are robust and do not get upset easily.

People-Oriented

Dogs of this kind are approachable and are does not get irritated easily. This kind can communicate to children with autism easily and because of that this dog is more likely to bond strongly with autistic children.

Recommended Dog Breeds for Autistic Children

  • Labrador retriever
  • Golden retriever
  • Poodle
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Beagle
  • Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Boxer
  • Bull Terrier
  • Great Dane
  • New Foundland

IMPORTANT REMINDER

When choosing therapy dogs for your child with autism, know that the breed is only a secondary consideration. What comes first is picking what’s best for your child.

Based on research,  children with Autism who live with dogs develop better than those who didn’t. Autistic kids raised with dogs have become more obedient, more physically active, and have fewer behavior problems.They do not get so moody more often and their learning problems are enhanced. Overall, dogs help stabilize the behavior of a child with Autism and help him and his parents to socialise with ease.

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