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gragodan's blog Blog by gragodan

special children for special people,so cheer up!

Posts: 9 | Created on September 21, 2008 | 3

The Effects of Animal-Assisted Therapy on a Child with Autism

By gragodan in gragodan's blog on Monday, April 20, 2009 12:52 AM 1
3 Comments Post a Comment

For those of us who have had pets in our lives, it's no great surprise to learn that interactions with animals can have therapeutic benefits. A New Mexico Highlands University School of Social Work graduate student named Jennifer Baról lead a research project to study the benefits and impact of animal-assisted therapies on children with autism when used as a treatment tool.

The study, entitled "The Effects of Animal-Assisted Therapy on a Child with Autism" ran for 15 weeks between July and November of 2006. It was geared toward the goal of discovering whether or not there is any evidence that therapies based on animal-assistance would be able to improve an autistic child's social skills.

The results of the study were interesting. For example, before undergoing the animal-assisted therapy with an eight-year-old Australian Cattle Dog named Henry, participant Zachary, who was five years old, experienced a dramatic struggle in order to communicate. Zachary was prone to throwing tantrums as well as covering his ears and eyes when he became frustrated with his lack of ability to be understood. Participation in new activities was stressful to him. He couldn't understand how to play with others and had never before uttered a complete sentence.

However, once Zachary met and bonded with Henry, he went through a virtual transformation. His self-assurance level is much higher and he is willing to experience new activities with an obvious curiosity. Furthermore, Zachary is better able to understand what is going on around him, including the needs of others. Moreover, halfway through the therapy for the research project, Zachary completed his first sentence.

In the case of Zachary, a whole new world of experiences and understanding was opened up by the animal-assisted therapy.  When autistic children play with animals, any violent tendencies they may have will typically disappear. They take on quite maternal characteristics, taking special care of the animal including feeding, cleaning up after them, and interacting with them.

The blood pressure of autistic children will also usually be lowered when experiencing an animal treatment. Furthermore, symptoms such as insomnia and headache can be eased with this treatment.

The companionship of animals can help reduce any lonely feelings in autistic children, promoting a base of healthy character development within them, including personality traits such as being respectful, trusting, contributing, committed, self-confident, and responsible. Autistic children can also learn decision-making skills, problem-solving skills, and both language and social skills through interactions with animals.

This kind of therapy can be beneficial overall, as well as in times of greater trial, such as puberty - when your child will go through many changes and have many questions and will be in need of greater stress relief.
Comments 

I can definitely agree with a lot of what this blog says. I have two Aspie teenagers (13 and 18) and an undiagnosed Aspie husband. We have 6 cats and each of my "boys" has a cat that the relate to best and that spends a lot of time with them.

I have watched the interaction between my eldest son who melts down over stress concerning college work and his cat, Suki, a tiny tortoiseshell cat who is 9 years old. She sits on his lap while he is playing his computer and as soon as his hands go still, she will lick him or pat at his hand for a stroke. She is always right by his side when he is going through his meltdown and even if he pushes her away, she will just jump on top of his wardrobe and watch him until he calms down. Then when he is resting after the meltdown (they always take it out of him), she will just jump onto his lap and sit or lay down beside him if he is on his bed. I can see him visibly relax after bout 15 minutes of her warm and comforting presence and she will just stay with him while he sleeps! It is a total love fest!


Monday, April 20, 2009 8:09 AM

I certainly wish the dogs trained for autism/seizures weren't so expensive to obtain and that with the wonderful role they play as companions/assistants to others they could be given to everyone who needed one without cost being a worry.Wouldn't it be great if anyone who needed and could provide for one could have one!!Both of my children on spectrum have been greatly influenced in a positive way by both our cat and dog.Especially my daughter with her cat we rescued from a shelter just a few short years ago!!Exactly like nikki explains with hers--except we have one cat only not six!!Our dog is very gentle/kind with my children instinctively and always has been even when they were little and not always so gentle with her tail or trying to ride her like a horse.:)

Monday, April 20, 2009 1:01 PM

I agree totally regarding animal therapy. My son has always been able to communicate better socially through animals. We have three dogs at home, one is a trainee guide dog puppy and is our 4th one, my son loves and looks forward to them arriving every year. It is the only time he shows emotion, caring and actual contact between living things. The dogs also sense how to treat and approach him, they are so gentle and patient, we coud learn alot from animals, we also have two cats, whom he adores also. It is a shame there are not more assistant dogs for autistic children, but it is getting better, some of the guide dogs go onto train as assistant dogs, but at the end of the day it all boils down to money.

Monday, April 20, 2009 4:01 PM

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