For many people with autism, pets provide a sense of companionship and love that is essential for their wellbeing. Pets can help reduce stress, promote calmness and encourage socialization. For children with autism, interaction with animals can also help improve communication and sensory skills.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects how a person communicates and interacts with others. It can also affect sensory processing, movement and thinking. ASD occurs in 1 in 68 children in the United States, making it more common than childhood cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing ASD, but many families find that having a pet be helpful. Pets provide unconditional love and support. They can encourage children with autism to interact, learn responsibility and follow commands.
Here are some guidelines for choosing the right pet for you and your family:
Consider your child’s age and interests when looking for a pet. If your child is nonverbal or very young, consider getting an animal that doesn’t require much care, such as a goldfish or turtle. Goldfish will thrive in an aquarium and don’t require daily feedings like a dog does, making them ideal for families who can’t always be at home. Turtles need to be fed once every 1-3 days and cared for weekly — another great option if someone in the house works long hours or is away at school. For older kids, cats and dogs can provide companionship and can be trained to do tricks or perform tasks such as fetching things.
Do your research before getting a pet. Some animals may be better suited for families with allergies. If you have a child with autism, it’s important to get a pet that is low-maintenance and doesn’t require a lot of attention. Pets like hamsters and guinea pigs need to be handled regularly and cleaned out often, which may not be suitable if your child has trouble with sensory overload.
Think about your living situation. If you live in an apartment, you’ll want to get a small animal that doesn’t make a lot of noise. Cats and dogs are typically not allowed in apartments, but some buildings do allow fish, birds and certain small rodents.
Be prepared to handle some extra responsibilities when you have a pet. This includes regular feeding, cleaning up after your pet and taking them to the vet for check-ups.
Pets provide many benefits for people with autism, including reducing stress, promoting calmness and socialization skills, and providing companionship. When choosing a pet, be sure to consider your child’s age and interests, as well as your living situation. Do your research to find the right animal for your family. Be prepared to handle some extra responsibilities, such as feeding and cleaning up after your pet.
Pets can provide many benefits for people with autism and are worth the extra effort!
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