Having a pet in the home with growing children has been proven to have a range of benefits. You can improve your health as a family, as well as have some companionship, help to alleviate some anxiety, and reduce feeling lonely, to name but a few. But when it comes to having a pet in the home of a child with autism, it can help them in many other ways. Some children on the autism spectrum will find it easier to communicate and interact with an animal than they might with other people. An animal is nonverbal, but also non-judgemental, so it can help children with autism, for sure. A pet in the home will also help children to have a sense of responsibility, which might not normally be something that they experience without a pet.
As an example, studies into dogs and children with autism found that dogs can really help the children in how they get along with and communicate with others. Something like a dog can act like a social lubricant, if you will, helping certain social situations where a child with autism may otherwise feel uncomfortable. Having a dog, or other pet for that matter can be a bridge for children with autism to be able to communicate more effectively with their peers. In fact, parents with service dogs tend to find that there is more social interaction when you have a pet like a dog, as children are naturally drawn towards pets and dogs, and will want to come over to talk and be friendly.
As you can see, it makes a lot of sense in many cases, for getting a pet if you have a child with autism. Although there are benefits, you need to remember that getting a pet of any description is something that is a commitment, and you will need to care and look after the pet for as long as it lives. If you move home or travel a lot, then you will need to transport it, so you could click here for more information around that. But if this has persuaded you, and you think getting a pet in the home may work for you, there are certain things to think about.
- Only introduce your child to a pet when your child is ready. For some children with sensory processing sensitivities, you won’t want to rush introducing them to a pet and making them pet it, for example. Take your time.
- Develop a routine with your pet that your child can get involved with. If they feel able to help clear out a cage, for example, then that can be beneficial.
- Make sure that your child is part of things like veterinary appointments so that they know what is going on with their pet at all times.
- Keep the pet in a separate room for them during the night. Some unexpected noise in the child’s room at night could be triggering for anxiety.
- Talk through certain boundaries, such as carrying or lifting the pet.