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The Benefits of Animal Therapy for Autistic Children

written by: Beth Gatewood • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 7/24/2010

Considering getting a pet? Animal therapy for autistic children has many benefits for their overall behavior, helping them to cope better.

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    Border Collie A pet is your best friend, protective and a part of the family that you can always trust, but did you know that studies have been proven that animal therapy for autistic children helps them cope with their daily life better.

    It surprises many parents that a pet in their family can make such a difference to an autistic child. Many reactions from an autistic child happen, because they don’t know how to control their impulses, and don’t think. A pet can improve their communication, and social skills. It becomes more noticeable to the families of autistic children that their children are happier, play more; and even become more focused on their activities when around pets. If you don’t have an animal in your family, maybe it is time to get one.

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    Animals & Autism Similarities

    A child with autism has many things in common with some animals- a dislike high pitched noises, alarms, thunder and loudspeakers. Animals experience some things in the same way as an autistic child who has sensitivity to noises: bells ringing at school, the noises of garden and power tools, and they too can become afraid.

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    Fear of Animals

    A child who is afraid of animals, or has never had one has to gradually get used to pets in their environment. Take your child to the zoo, or gradually introduce them to animals that your friends, and neighbors have. Take your child to a farm where they have lots of animals that they can interact with, and when he or she is ready get them a pet of their own. You can take your child to the local animal shelter to visit the animals too.

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    Benefits of Animal Therapy for the Autistic

    Animal therapy may be simply bringing a pet home to your child, or it can involve being with an animal in a structured setting, such as programs that offer horseback riding activities for the autistic. Animal interaction improves a child's strength, coordination, and physical capabilities. Autistic children gain a new friend, and this gives them more self-confidence.

    When a child with autism spectrum is around a pet he or she is prone to have fewer temper tantrums and is calmer, does not close eyes or ears if frustrated, and their speech even becomes better.

    Having an animal can mentally help with feelings of loneliness, or depression. It can also help an autistic child to develop self-esteem, respect, trust, commitment, and responsibility. In addition the child can become a better decision maker because of interactions with animals. This kind of therapy is particularly beneficial when a child approaches puberty, and the stress of that stage of life can be overwhelming. A pet is a great stress reliever.

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    Service Dogs for the Autistic

    Pet therapy for autistic children can be extremely beneficial. Another option is the use of trained service dog to help your child. For example, those provided by Autism Service Dogs of America that have been trained to work with autistic children, and their families. They are great additions, and can even go with your child on outings away from home, or on a school activity. They help to calm and comfort the autistic child, allowing him or her to cope better with the family, the surroundings and activities.