Dogs Alleviate Social Barriers for Children with Autism

As if there weren’t enough proven benefits to having a pet, a new study from Missouri University shows that parents of children with autism overwhelmingly agree that having a dog, or even just being around dogs, has benefited their autistic child.

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often have difficulties with social interaction. According to Gretchen Carlisle, who conducted the study, “Dogs can help… by acting as a social lubricant,” and when children with ASD have trouble interacting with their peers (and in some cases with their own family), “dogs can serve as a bridge that help children with autism communicate.”

Since autism varies along the spectrum, each individual with ASD has specific interests and sensory sensitivities, meaning that although this study focused on dogs, some families may benefit from other pets depending on their child’s needs. Carlisle states that, when parents involve their children with deciding on a pet, “it may be more likely the children will have positive experiences with the animals when they are brought home.”

Carlisle notes that dogs “can provide unconditional, nonjudgmental love and companionship,” which might make them especially beneficial for children with autism. But of course that’s what makes dogs so loveable in the first place.

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