Canines have long been given the moniker of “man’s best friend”. Their faithfulness, unconditional love and non-judgmental nature have often inspired partnerships that have been beneficial to both human and canine lives.
It’s a known fact that dogs can help neurotypical children to develop social skills. But can they provide the same benefits to children who have autism? Well, there is scientific evidence to suggest that they can. A study conducted at the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the Missouri University College of Veterinary Medicine surveyed 70 families who had children with autism. The results of the study revealed that autistic children with any kind of pet in the home were more likely to engage in social behaviors such as introducing themselves, responding to other people’s questions and asking for information.
Most autistic children are naturally shy, reserved and quiet, and dogs, being highly social creatures themselves, can help them come out of their shells. Let’s take a look at how dogs can help autistic children develop social skills.
Dogs love structure, patterns, sequences and repetition – a trait that is associated with an autistic mind. This makes them a perfect match for children with autism.
The presence of a dog also increases the focus of children and motivates them to join others. Furthermore, a dog also keeps a child engaged, which helps in diverting their attention away from negative behavior.
A dog can be trained to play a variety of games, which can help in ensuring your child gets a healthy ‘sensory diet’ every day. These games can promote proprioception, speech skills, vestibular and fine motor skills. Examples include Tug of War, Hide and Seek, wrestling, etc.
Perhaps the most significant advantage of having a pet dog is the impact they can have in the promotion of speech. The presence of a dog is likely to accelerate the development of speech skills in autistic children who are nonverbal or elective mutes.
Another great benefit of having a pet dog is their ability to quickly establish strong bonds with children. Autistic children often feel lonely, judged and isolated, and a dog can be the perfect companion they need. This can do wonders for their confidence as well.
One of the most in-demand motivational speakers and autism advocates of their generation, Louis Scarantino has devoted his life to fighting the stigma that surrounds autism and mental health issues. Get in touch with his representatives today if you want more information on his keynote speaker services or want to book him for your next event.