Animals and humans have bonded in extraordinary ways over many centuries. However, the therapeutic benefits of using animals for helping people with autism is a recent phenomenon, but with amazing findings. There are many reports from both parents and healthcare professionals that interacting with animals can offer both physical and emotional benefits for children with autism.
Children on the spectrum generally lack basic social skills because of which they have problems connecting with peers. Bonding with pets seems easier for them and being around pets or having structured contact with animals can be a great addition to traditional treatment for children with autism. The benefits of animal assisted therapy for autism have been observed in several cases.
Many research and studies have shown that when children with autism are introduced to animals, like dogs, it can have many positive results such as reduction in anxiety, stress, temper tantrums and irritation.
Animal-assisted therapy can be as simple as bringing a family pet into the household or as structured as sessions that offer horseback riding or swimming with dolphins. Interaction with animals can help children on the spectrum become more physically developed and improve their strength, coordination, and physical abilities. It also has a positive effect on the children’s communication skills and social skills development as well. Many people derive great joy from their relationship with animals, which can help have a better sense of well-being and self-confidence. Many animals have been used to test this theory such as dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, dolphins, birds and some other small animals.
Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy for Autism are Manifold:
Children who have pets at home can get great benefits from their interaction with these pets. They benefit from the comfort of physical contact with animals and having a constant companion, reducing loneliness and also increasing opportunities for meeting others, via the pets. In addition, caring for pets encourages awareness of other’s presence and developing nurturing emotions, responsibility, and a daily schedule.
- Physical Aspects
Improving motor skills, balance, lower blood pressure, better coordination, exercise, lower risk for stroke or heart attack, and decreased depression are a few physical benefits of animal assisted therapy for autism.
- Mental and Emotional Aspects
Studies have shown that children with autism show signs of better sense of well-being, better problem solving skills, self-confidence and a better state of mind with animal assisted therapy. This therapy helps in maintaining a relaxed frame of mind in them which results in a decrease in the stereotypical behavior in people with autism and reduces anxiety and stress. It also develops leisure or recreational skills which further promote a healthy well-being.
- Educational Aspects
Benefits of animal assisted therapy for autism also show in the learning of new vocabulary, aid in enhancing memory and improve concept learning such as size, color, etc
- Motivational Aspect
With animal assisted therapy, children are motivated to be involved in group activities, interaction with others and an overall willingness to learn.