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Benefits of Pets for Children with Autism

June 2, 2022

Many of us have cherished memories of playing with a childhood pet, but did you know that animals have great benefits for kids with autism, too? Studies have consistently shown that having pets in the home has a positive impact on an individual’s emotional health. 

This boost in spirits is especially noticeable for those receiving in-home care and for those with ongoing conditions like autism or other behavioral disabilities. Here’s a look at how pets can be especially beneficial for children with autism receiving home care services.

How do dogs help children with autism?

Most children dream of getting a pet, but animals can also provide much-needed benefits to autistic children.

Loneliness can be a common problem for autistic children, who might find it difficult to connect with other kids of their own age. Pets are near-constant companions who can help children to navigate tricky social relationships and even better understand social norms and boundaries.

Having a pet like a dog can also encourage autistic children to get out of the house and exercise by taking them on a walk, as well as teach vital skills like road safety and the importance of daily routines. 

For autistic children who might struggle with sensory issues, the comfort of a pet can help bring feelings of calm in a moment of high anxiety and offer great support for a child with sensory needs.

What’s more, pets help fight back against one of the most common struggles that those receiving home care services face: depression. According to Ian Cook, MD, a psychiatrist and director of the Depression Research Clinic Program at UCLA:

“Pets offer an unconditional love that can be very helpful to people with depression.”

This unconditional love can help reduce stress and improve a person’s mood, as well.

Best therapy dog breeds for autism

Boy with autism sitting outside with therapy dog.

When it comes to therapy pets, dogs are among the most favorite. They are usually easy to train, sociable, and live for several years.

However, there’s no one breed of dog that will make the perfect fit. Instead, it’s more important to consider the unique temperament of the dog in question. For an autistic child’s companion, you want a calm, sociable pup, so the child will trust it and be able to build a relationship.

You also want an intelligent dog, like a Labrador or Spaniel. You need to know your dog will behave well around your child and for your child to be able to give the dog commands, as well.

Remember that a high-energy dog may not be a good match for an autistic child. Autistic children often have low muscle tone and relatively low physical stamina and endurance. What’s most important, however, is that you consider your child’s personality and what your child is like, then find a pet to match that.

Stay Connected to Best Care

Many of us at Best Care are animal lovers and have pets of their own. We understand the joy that a pet can bring and encourage our personal care assistants to incorporate animals into their home care plans when able.

To learn more about the benefits of pet ownership, and if an animal is a good fit for a specific home care plan, contact Best Care!

A girl leans on the stool her dog is perched on
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