There’s no love like a dogs love. As man’s best friend, dogs have that unique gift to make you feel loved and cherished. They also, as researchers say, have that distinctive ability to lower stress levels, which can be extremely beneficial especially when it comes to children on the autism spectrum as well as family units as a whole.
Without a doubt, parents of children with autism can experience increased anxiety and stress as these circumstances can often bring a unique set of challenges. There have been many previous studies that have found that animal assisted therapy can greatly impact the lives of children with autism. Aside from the obvious fact that dogs can provide unconditional, nonjudgmental love and companionship, they can also act as a social lubricant, as it teaches autistic children how to effectively interact with a living being.
Children on the spectrum can often struggle with interaction with others, as they may not know how to properly communicate with their peers, which can make it somewhat difficult for them to form friendships. However, as research has shown, children’s assertiveness was greater if they lived with a pet. Say for instance, a child with autism invites their peers to play with their dog, the dogs can serve as a bridge that may help the child with autism communicate more effectively with their peers.
According to disabilityscoop, researchers at the University of Lincoln in England conducted a study with two different groups; they looked at 22 families of kids with autism who owned a dog, and 15 similar families without pets. After a little over two years went by, parents in both groups exhibited decreased stress levels however the impact was considerably more noticeable in the families that owned a dog (with 20% of parents moving from clinically high to normal stress levels).
Furthermore, researchers found that the stress-shrinking effects of a dog seemed to stand the test of time and discovered a vast reduction in dysfunctional interactions between parents and their kids among the pet owners, thus having a pet dog considerably improved overall family function in comparison to the other control group families.
Just as DirectCourse provides support to direct care professionals so they may be better suited to care for those affected by disabilities, four legged friends can also provide support to those affected by disabilities!
Many families have the debate of whether or not to get a dog, weighing the negatives and the positives, deliberating over the amount of responsibility it takes to care for one long term. Bringing a dog into any family is a big step, but for families of children with autism, getting a dog should be a decision that is not taken lightly; families should do their research before bringing home a dog as well as involve their children with autism in the decision.
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