Just more proof of the way pets can help humans: French researchers studied 260 autistic children and found that giving them a cuddly pet after age five could actually aid socialization, suggesting that introducing companion animals to the autistic child might also help with human bonding.
The key seems to be the arrival of the animal; those children who grew up with pets were not affected.
Bringing a pet into the home not only calmed, but increased, the child’s ability to share and to comfort; those are two skills that autistic children often lack, because they depend on the ability to understand people’s thoughts, feelings and emotions–and then be able to empathize with them. While the pet doesn’t necessarily need any extra training, some do use therapy dogs..
While no one really knows why timing is so important, one thought is that the autistic child may just see pre-existing pets as part of the background, or that the pets may already be more strongly bonded with other family members by the time the child enters the household.
Some also suspect that the arrival of a pet might strengthen the family bond and increases interaction, giving the child the opportunity to see petting, cuddling and other responses.
“In individuals with autism, pet arrival in the family setting may bring about changes in specific aspects of their socio-emotional development,” the researchers wrote in their study, according to Web MD.
Irene Ross, CHHC, AADP is a certified nutrition and health coach who refers to herself as the wellness expert for both the 2-legged and 4-legged. Author of the e-book, Sugar’s Sour Story and of the forthcoming book, 25 Ways to Fire Up Your Day: Increase Energy, Get More Done in Less Time, Balance Your Life, her website is: www.irenefross.com.
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