Animal Therapy for Autism

Most pet owners would agree that the company and affection of their pets help to decrease stress and boost their moods. Coming home after a long day at work or school and being greeted by a furry friend can almost magically make all the day’s frustrations melt away. Now, the known benefits of human-animal interaction are being put to use in order to help those with autism spectrum disorders through the emerging field of Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT).

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Animal therapy has been shown to help people with emotional, physical, and mental disabilities, including children with autism.

Children and adults with autism are often frustrated with their inability to communicate and understand others. This frustration can lead to tantrums and resistance towards learning and more traditional therapies. It can also have physical effects, like raised blood pressure and headaches, and emotional effects, like loneliness and low self-confidence. Using animal therapy for autism has been shown to significantly improve those symptoms, as well as increase an autistic child’s ability to learn new skills.

Specifically, animal therapy programs aim to teach children with autism improved behavior skills, communication skills, gross and fine motor skills, care taking, social appropriateness, how to be aware of and regulate their emotions, and social skills.  Studies have shown that animal therapy does have some degree of success in those areas, from helping a child with autism to develop personality traits, as well as teaching decision-making, problem-solving, and language skills.

And it’s not just dogs and cats that are used for animal therapy. For example, programs that teach children how to train, ride, groom, and care for horses are gaining in popularity and have shown adults and children with autism, as well as other conditions, how to gain more independence.

Have you or someone you know benefited from animal assisted therapy? Share with us below.