Research out of the University of Missouri has provided probable evidence that families who own dogs have reported positive benefits to children with autism. The benefits include companionship, the learning of responsibility, opportunities for the development and deepening of empathy and stress relief.
Children who are diagnosed with autism often have trouble relating to and socialising with others. This unfortunately makes it especially difficult for them to form real and lasting friendships. Interacting with dogs can help those who have difficulty bonding with others, as dogs provide unconditional and non-judgmental love and friendship.
A new study supports dog therapy
A study out of the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction (ReCHAI) from the MU College of Veterinary Medicine is producing results which indicate that children with autism spectrum disorder can benefit from dog companionship.
The study involved interviews of 70 parents of autistic children. Of the two-thirds of interviewees that owned dogs, 94% confirmed that their child had bonded with their dog. Of the families who didn’t own dogs, 70% reported that their children loved dogs. A majority of the families who owned dogs reported that they had purposefully added a dog to their family because of the benefits they had heard with regards to dogs and children with autism.
Doggies are good for just about everybody
It has been shown that dogs help children with autism become more social and more empathetic. The dogs serve as a social bridge to connect people to each other; if a child invites others to play with their dog it thereby helps them to meet and bond with others.
Gretchen Carlisle a researcher from ReCHAI suggests that parents of a child with autism involve them in deciding what kind of dog to adopt into their family.
Even though a dog may not suitable to every family, the benefits of animal-human interaction are undeniable. Increasingly, research has shown that human-animal interactions are therapeutic and beneficial. Animals positively influence the lives of all children, including those diagnosed with autism. They help to instill in them empathy, responsibility, and the ability to relate to others.
As more research is conducted, perhaps we can also incorporate more dog therapy in the treatments of children with developmental disorders such as autism.