Autism Dog Therapy

by Sam Malone


Children diagnosed with autism are known to suffer from various degrees of difficulty with regards to emotional, communication and social skills. Autism does not have any definite cure as it does not have a definite cause and hence in most individuals autism may be a lifelong disability. A child diagnosed with autism may suffer from a spectrum of problems that could range from being unable to read or understand the facial expressions of another person and thereby not reciprocate appropriately. Besides this the child could also experience conditions like extreme anxiety, reserved nature, limited speech as well as inability to develop relationships or interact with people.

When it comes to treating children with autism, dog therapy is seen as a novel and much used option in modern times. The use of dog therapy for children is known to help the child open up to others and be more expressive. Children with autism and dogs can become very good friends. This is because such kids begin to consider the animal their responsibility and vice versa. Thus dog therapy is also effective in reducing the anxiety levels in children as well as pushes them to be more outgoing and participative. This is important because children diagnosed with autism are known to socialize less and be more withdrawn.

Nowadays there are agencies that also offer professionally trained service dogs to help children with autism to gradually overcome the symptoms and be more expressive. However if the child is diagnosed with a moderate function autism then it may not be required to have a service dog. For this purpose you could simply adopt a dog from the local animal shelter or allow the child to interact regularly with a dog from the shelter. This is known to be just as therapeutic and beneficial for a child suffering from autism.

Some of the known advantages of pet therapy for autism in children are:

  • Redirection of Repetitive Behavior: A trained service dog may be taught to nudge the child if he keeps repeating a particular action or behavior which will help in redirecting the thought process of the child.
  • Increase Vocal Interaction: It has been observed that autistic children are not very vocal in expressing their thoughts; however when paired with a service dog they would be more comfortable in speaking with the dog as compared to talking to people.
  • Quality Sleep: Children who are paired with pets, especially dogs in particular, are known to derive a lot of comfort and security from their dog which helps them feel secure and relax thereby allowing them to sleep peacefully during the night.

Additionally, the dogs can also be trained to alert the parent if the child is exposed to a dangerous situation thereby protecting the child form harmful situations.

Remember always to keep your doctor informed about the type of therapy you choose to help your child with autism.

References:

  1. http://ajot.aotapress.net/content/60/3/268.short

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