Ways Dogs Can Help Children with Autism
Dogs have long been regarded as man’s best friend. They serve many purposes. They are used as guide dogs, service dogs, or simply just playful companions. Not many parents know this, but dogs make excellent companions to children with autism as well. In fact, they can serve as a long-term pal for your child.
Dogs are naturally drawn to people they are fond of, which makes them gentle creatures around you and other members of the family. They may not seem like the right duo, but here’s how dogs can help children with autism develop better.
A Best Friend
One of the many symptoms of autism is that the child avoids socializing with others, even those that are on the same page as them. The problem is that children with autism need to learn how to socialize at a young age. This is one of the more challenging parts of being their parents but dogs can help with the process easily.
Despite lacking the will to socialize, many children with autism respond positively to being around dogs. They react even better if the dog has been with them for a long time. Dogs can serve as a companion for your child, which helps encourage them to socialize with others more. While dogs won’t be able to directly teach your child to socialize, they will at least be able to encourage them to be around others.
Beyond that, dogs are naturally drawn to protecting people they see as family. That being said, your dog can protect your child from others should the need arise. This is one of the best benefits of owning a dog because children with autism tend to be hyperactive at times. When they run off out of your sight, dogs can help protect them while you are gone.
Helps with Therapy
There are various forms of therapy to help develop children with autism. Autism Parent Magazine’s guide to ABA therapy says that positive reinforcement is necessary to help these children. Therapy might be a tough ordeal for children with autism, even with the right techniques. With dogs, however, they’ll be able to have at least something to help them when therapy gets challenging.
You might want to get what’s called a service dog. These dogs specialize in helping people with certain conditions. For instance, some comfort their owners when they get panic attacks. For your child, you can get a service dog that’s trained to comfort others when they begin to act erratically.
Some dogs are also specifically trained to serve as service dogs for people with autism. Aside from comforting them when they begin to act differently, these dogs also do other things such as calm their owners down when they get anxiety attacks. They try to guide their owners away from physical harm.
Helps Release Stress for Everyone
What’s great about dogs for children with autism is that they benefit not only your child, they benefit your entire family. Dogs are naturally warm and friendly creatures. If you’ve owned a dog before, you are familiar with how well they help you manage stress and problems when things get too hard to comfort.
Your dog can do wonders for your child if he gets too stressed out. Sometimes, not even your words and hugs can comfort your child. In times like these, it is often best to help them get through with the help of a dog that they are completely comfortable with
Opens Up New Opportunities
Children with autism tend to live their daily lives on a schedule. It’s a habit that they are comfortable with, but it isn’t necessarily recommended. If you want your child to try new things, go ahead and get a dog. With a playful and protective companion at their side, your child will be more comfortable with trying out new things.
Aside from encouraging your child to play new games, a dog can also help them explore your backyard even further. Upon getting a dog, you will see a lot of behavioral changes for your child. With your dog and your guidance, your child will be able to develop into a healthier and fully functioning adult.
Before Getting a Dog
By now, you might be keen on getting a dog for your child. You don’t have to rush through as getting a dog is a huge responsibility. You need to know whether or not the dog is compatible with your family first. Keep in mind that dogs have varying temperaments depending on their breed, so some dogs are more fitting for children with autism.
As per Very Well Health, support and therapy dogs are usually the larger breeds. Some of the most popular breeds for children with autism include Labrador Retrievers, Poodles, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and German Shepherds. However, breeds like Saint Bernard and Great Pyrenees are the best ones.
Large dogs are very high maintenance. You’ll have to spend quite a lot with regards to grooming, food, and veterinary services, so make sure that you are well capable of taking care of them before you get one.
Small dogs are easier to take care of. However, they are often more aggressive in nature, so they aren’t exactly compatible with people that have autism. Of course, it all really depends on how the dog is raised and trained but never forget that their breeds play a part in their temperament.
Understandably, you might be concerned about how dogs would react if your child becomes a bit too aggressive during playtime. As such, make sure to get these giants yet gentle breeds as they have more patience for children that get handsy.
Autism is a challenge for both you and your child. There are many ways you can help each other, and one of the best things you can do is to get a dog. Dogs are a life-long companion that not only serve as protectors of the house, but they also serve as the perfect companions for children with autism.