Today’s guest post comes from Andy from Pet Gear Lab who has some enlightening thoughts on how dogs can help a kid deal with the daily challenges of autism.
7 Ways Dogs Help Children With Autism
The prevalence of autism according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is one in 68 children, and the condition affects more girls than boys. These numbers prove that there is a high frequency of autism. This condition is classified as an Autism Spectrum Disorder and is characterized by problems and lapses in the development of the brain. ASD’s often cause problems in one’s social skills and people have challenges with verbal and non-verbal communication. Managing repetitive behaviors is also a challenge for kids with autism. As such, children diagnosed with autism have a hard time expressing their emotions and thoughts, playing and learning as well as interacting with people and their surroundings.
As interactions and external factors are known to cause difficulties and stress for children with autism, many studies have been known to focus on the importance of pets helping autistic kids overcome their social challenges. Without a doubt, such difficulties become more pronounced with age. Autism Assistance Dogs are introduced to children to help them deal with problems like friendships, companionship, and emotional support by acting as a social catalyst. But how is that possible? How can dogs help kids with autism?
Dogs connect autism children to the world around them
One of the most important and noble services that dogs provide is social interaction. Children with autism tend to get overwhelmed in the company of unfamiliar faces. A dog provides the kindness and gentleness that helps such children cope. In addition, it helps such kids build confidence in certain conditions, especially when other people are involved. Kids are more likely to be drawn to and engage in conversations with dogs. According to a study published in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 94% of the children with autism bonded strongly with pets. In families where there were no pets, 70% of the parents reported that their kids enjoyed interacting with dogs. Previous research also confirms that autism children exposed to pets, particularly dogs, at a young age tend to relate with people better.
Dogs help autistic children handle sensory overload
One of the common challenges that autistic children struggle with is sensory overload. Filtering out sensory input is often difficult. They get all their information at once but find it hard to redirect it to the right department intelligently. This leads to confusion, which affects a child’s ability to achieve day-to-day activities efficiently. This is where dogs come in. They determine a focal point that helps give direction to stimuli, thus making it easier for children to process thoughts and emotions better.
Dogs provide a sense of personal safety to autistic kids
It is typical for children with autism to feel as if they are not safe. This applies in particular if they are not under constant supervision. As such, accidents are bound to happen, and this makes them even more scared. This is one of the reasons why dogs are of great help. If trained, dogs can guide kids with this condition outdoors or anywhere they find it hard to cope with. Do secure an autism’s harness to the dog’s harness to help others see that the dog is working.
Dogs offer emotional support
One of the major obstacles in the treatment of children with autism is the inability to share feelings with others. This often arises from a realization that they are not the same as their peers. This, in turn, leads to contempt for the world which can mean autistic kids prefer to be left alone.
Introducing such a child to a dog, however, changes things. The kind and gentle disposition are enough to break the ice and encourage a kid to take a liking to the dog. Also, the inability of pets to judge motivates children to be themselves. Dogs are more than tolerant of all the unexpected noises and compulsive things that the child does. This creates a lasting bond with human and pet that is hard to accomplish in everyday life.
Dogs provide kids with a sense of independence
Autistic kids do not have as much independence as other children. It is also important to mention that some parents do not feel confident about letting their autistic kids do some things on their own. Because dogs help improve personal safety, children can feel more confident. This means being able to try new things and explore unfamiliar territories in the company of their dogs. It also allows a family to experience inclusion thanks to the ability to partake in family activities more often. Parents no longer have to worry about depending on constant physical contact like hand holding or even restraining the kid to a mobility aid to prevent absconding.
Dogs provide a sense of familiarity
Autistic children are resistance to change. However, dogs naturally provide continuous support by always being around. This provides a sense of familiarity and security, which helps children cope with adjustments to routine better. For example, dogs provide reassurance that helps when transitioning to unfamiliar situations, like starting school. The companionship that dogs provide helps ease a child into different circumstances. This, in turn, leads to less frustration from parents and families who do not have a clue as to what should be done to help their kids cope with strange situations.
Dogs encourage social communication
Social communication is a challenge that children experience in varying degrees. For many, expressing feelings and understanding others can prove difficult and lead to outbursts, frustrations, and violence in extreme cases. Making eye contact or comprehending other people’s facial expressions is also a challenge. However, understanding the simple emotions of dogs is easier for such kids. Positive interaction with a dog helps improve self-esteem as the dog acts as a bridge that facilitates conversation. Where a dog is a common interest for autistic kids and others, the relationship between the families subsequently improve.
Hopefully, we’ve given you some insight as to how a dog can greatly improve an autistic child’s view of the world and how your relationship with your child can improve when having a dog around. We’ve seen such amazing transformations in kids with pets that we can wholeheartedly recommend adding a pet to your family.
And if you don’t like dogs, cats are always an alternative. They’re small, portable, and, with the right litter, pretty easy to clean up after. Plus, they’re self-cleaning so you never have to bathe them (thank GOD….because…the claws).
Have you got a dog in the family? How has your child accepted them? Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear from you.
About the author
Pet Gear Lab was started by Andy McNaby as a resource for pet owners to find useful information to look after their pets and your pets to look after you. We love all things pet’s so our site aims to educated as well as entertain.