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Animal- assisted therapy for ASD

Dog is a Man’s Best friend

Animal- assisted therapy, Animal- assisted therapy for ASD

After a long hard day, coming home and cuddling up to your kitten or dog can be the perfect fix. Human and animal interactions have been found to be mutually beneficial. Not only can they be the perfect pets and playmates, animals can also be used as forms of therapy.

You can always count on your dog or your cat to be your support system and take your side in any argument. They don’t understand that you probably did the wrong thing, and that’s what makes them the perfect sidekick (amongst other things). 

Benefits of Animal- Assisted Therapy

Animal- assisted therapy, Animal- assisted therapy for ASD

Animal-assisted therapy refers to the idea of using animals as a form of treatment to improve symptoms related to social, emotional or cognitive well being.  Animal-assisted therapy has been found to help with feelings related to distress, depression, and anxiety. Sometimes animal-assisted therapy can even reduce physical pain and help reduce heart rate and blood pressure. Also, animal-assisted therapy has been found to greatly enhance social and communication skills especially for people with autism.

What is ASD?

Autism Spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder which consists of deficits related to social skills, communication, and repetitive patterns of behaviors.  At around 8-10 months, while most neurotypical babies will become responsive and engaged, babies with ASD will be disinterested, delayed in babbling and less likely to play social games. Also, toddlers with ASD can appear as not attached to their parents.  This is because they show connection and emotional differently than neurotypical children.

People with ASD begin to communicate and speak later on in life and usually engage in “repetitive behaviors” like hand flapping, jumping or rocking. It can be difficult for people with ASD to form relationships or communicate with other people. However, early intervention to reduce symptoms and improve behavior is key for people with ASD.

Animal- assisted therapy, Animal- assisted therapy for ASD

Why is animal-assisted therapy good for ASD

Animal-assisted therapy provides a way for people with ASD to interact socially in a caring, non-judgemental environment. In animal-assisted therapy, children with ASD are touching the animal, playing with the animal and talking. Animals can help reduce anxiety, provide warmth and comfort and bring a smile to anyone’s face.

There are anecdotal stories of children with ASD engaging in play with service dogs and exhibiting more social behaviors after these interactions.  In one research study, after playing with a dog, children with ASD  were found to be more playful, focused and altogether more social than they had been before.

Animal- assisted therapy, Animal- assisted therapy for ASD

After engaging in play with a dog or other animals, children with ASD can be motivated to engage in social interactions and enhance their communication skills. In one survey given to parents with children who had ASD, 94% of parents who had their children interact with dogs, agreed it allowed them to expand and enhance their social skills

Interventions like working on social skills and self-help tips are crucial for individuals with ASD. Individuals with ASD have the ability to live meaningful lives, participate in communities, and enhance their education and career. Animal-assisted therapy is one way in which people with ASD can learn in a fun and natural way, the value of communication and connecting to others.

 

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