From our friends at: Parents Caring For Special Needs Kid
Pets are wonderful additions to families. They are great companions, but for individuals and families dealing with special needs, their benefits go far beyond companionship. Many animals, such as cats, dogs, rabbits, horses and even fish, provide therapeutic benefits to children and adults with disabilities. With 57 million Americans living with some type of disability, it is important to consider why pets are so beneficial to these individuals.
Learning to Interact
Some children, such as those who have been diagnosed with autism, have difficulty interacting with other individuals. Some children can learn to interact comfortably with an animal and this will improve their temperament and build their confidence. Children who learn to interact with a pet have less trouble making eye contact, talking to others and making physical contact.
Children with special needs can become very stressed when faced with a difficult situation or when they are feeling uncomfortable in general. For those with sensory processing disorders, fish tanks can be very calming. Animals can help children deal with the stress and be able to calm down. Interaction with animals promotes a positive mood by helping a child with special needs stay alert and attentive during the day. This will also teach the child how to better deal with their disorder.
Empathy is Encouraged
Children who have diagnoses of autism or ADHD, for example, are encouraged to show empathy towards others through pet bonding. Interactions with animals have a very positive effect on social behaviors of special needs children.
Staying on Track
Pet ownership comes with responsibility and these responsibilities are best managed on a schedule. For instance, a dog will have a scheduled time to take a walk, for feeding, for playing and bathing. A child with special needs can learn the pet’s schedule which will, in turn, help that child maintain their own schedule, such as keeping up with homework and extracurricular activities.
Improved Physical Health
Children with and without disabilities have the benefit of improved physical health when they have regular interactions with a pet. It has been shown that children interacting with a dog during Animal-Assisted Therapy have lowered blood pressure. This indicates that such interaction is comforting. Additionally, if a child is high-energy, frolicking around with the family pet is a great way for them to burn of excess energy which will help them rest better and get an appropriate amount of sleep.
Learning to Deal With Loss
Unfortunately, death is a fact of life and we must all deal with it at one time or another. A special needs child may have to deal with the sudden loss of a pet. This teaches them that situations can change quickly and also equip them with coping mechanisms to deal with loss and grief.
Feeling More Free
An animal used for therapy, such as a therapy dog, can give children more freedom. Such animals provide comfort, and in the case of a dog, they wear a vest alerting others to the child’s condition. Not only does this let others know what to expect, but it is a great icebreaker as well because people will want to stop and talk.
Animals have the ability to brighten anyone’s day and this is especially true of those who have special needs. They provide purpose and teach children how to connect emotionally. And, if a child is having a bad day, their pet will always be there waiting to comfort them and give them the love and attention they need.
Michael Monheit, Esq is one of the founding lawyers of Monheit Law, P.C. where they are dedicated to the protection of individual rights. The firm specializes in birth injury, brain damage, brachial plexus injuries, negligence and malpractice lawsuits.