With around 700,000 people on the autism spectrum in the United Kingdom, the disability plays a role in the daily lives of 2.8 million people when families are included. With that in mind, a number of children with autism (as well as their parents) may face a multitude of challenges each day. Such as stress, anxiety, and difficulties in communicating and developing relationships. However, a pet dog may be able to help in more surprising ways than one.
Cultivating the bond of friendship
Dogs are well-known for being “man’s best friend”. But dogs can also build an incredible bond with children as well. Dogs allow children to cultivate the bond of friendship unlike any other. Children who experience autism often have difficulty understanding others. However, one study suggests that introducing a companion animal — like dogs and even cats — to the child at the right time may actually help with learning key human bonding skills. Including skills such as, learning to share and even comforting others. With that said, building a bond between the child and their pup can be as simple as spending time together. For example, playing a game of fetch together, rolling a ball back and forth, or playing games that involve safe toys for both the child and dog.
Reducing stress and anxiety
There is plenty of research to prove that dogs can have a therapeutic effect on humans. Consequently reducing levels of stress and anxiety. These benefits can be especially helpful to children on the autism spectrum, as well as their parents. For instance, some challenges that children with autism routinely face may include stress, anxiety, and difficulty with communication and relationships. However, owning a pet may be able to reduce these difficulties. Pet ownership provides a sense of comfort, increasing social interaction, and reducing anxiety. In fact, the University of Missouri found that pets can help to reduce stress in kids with autism and also their parents. However, it’s recommended that the dog’s activity level matches the child’s, as some high activity dogs may be too much in terms of sensory overload for some.
Autism is a disability that can impact a child’s life in a number of ways. Autism, can at times be difficult to manage and cope with. However, a dog may be able to help by reducing stress and anxiety. Additionally the dog can bring an incredible bond of friendship that can help in a number of ways.