Dog Therapy For Autistic Kids

What Is Autism And What Causes It?

Autism is growing at a rate of 10 to 17 percent per year. It is a relatively common disorder that seems to be more prominent in boys than in girls. A neurological disorder affecting social and communication interaction and skills, children with autism have a difficult time interfacing with other children and have challenges with recreation and play activities. Some believe it is reaching epidemic proportions and manifests in a variety of what are known as autism spectrum disorders.

There is no definitive cause for autism, and while research is ongoing, no single answer has surfaced to date as to what is at the root of the condition. Environmental, social, genetic, nutritional, and medical factors may all play into the genesis of autism. Children with the condition come from all socio-economic levels, all types of parenting methods, and a variety of medical conditions.

Teaching Sign Language As A Communication Tool

There are some factors that can be helpful in dealing with a child with autism. Toddlers, often frustrated at their inability to communicate at the best of times, can experience even more frustration when they are autistic. The parents are equally affected. Teaching a toddler sign language can help immensely in alleviating some of the stress of communication challenges for an autistic child. Often the vocabulary of a child who learns to sign can be equal to or better than that of a child who uses only words to communicate. And the stress is lessened appreciably.

Developing Interpersonal Relationships

Developing good social relationships can be very difficult for children with autism, and it can prove to be a lifelong battle when it comes to interpersonal relationships. Today, with the advances in research and the awakening to the fact that there are myriad ways to educate and provide therapy for children with autism, parents have more tools at hand than ever before.

One trend that has picked up momentum in recent years is the use of dogs as a means of therapy for children with autism. The use of animals in therapy is not a new concept. Horses have long been employed as an effective tool in treating abuse victims and teens with anger issues. Because dogs love without boundaries, enjoy people interaction, and generally respond well without the need for verbal communication, they have a significant advantage over other animals in the treatment of autism.

A Pet At Home Can Work Wonders

The principle works even if the child is not in therapy. Having a dog in the home with an autistic child helps greatly in getting the child to engage and interact with his world rather than turning inside, as most autistic children do. This type of interaction can be very beneficial in affecting social interaction. With this in mind, supervising a healthy playtime with the family dog and the child can help the child expand his/her horizons. It is important to guide and supervise the play at all times, especially since an active puppy may need some instruction and leaving child and dog alone may not be the best thing for either at the beginning. As time goes on, the relationship will develop and close supervision can be relaxed.