Pet Assisted Therapy for Children on the Autism Spectrum

Read about pet assisted therapy for children on the autism spectrum.

Pet therapy for people and children with autism is different than pet therapy for other behavioral health issues. This is an area gaining the attention of animal-assisted therapy for children with autism. Research is still limited, and studies have shown that children with autism disorder (ASD) talk, laugh, and show caregivers that these kids exhibit many positive behaviors. Children with ASD are happier when they have an animal companion with them. One recent study researched the viewpoints of children with ASD and has shown that animals help these kids overcome their feelings of isolation and loneliness. In addition, research finds that animals help reduce depression, anxiety, and fear that many of these people suffer from that have ASD. Studies also have shown researchers that behavioral problems become lower in intensity, and positive social interactions increase with a yearning to participate with the animal-assisted therapy.

The impact ASD has on children’s lives

Challenges that are faced by kids with ASD as they move into adulthood are apparent. Most of the research that is available has focused on the feedback from parents and their caretakers. Sadly, the deficiency of research regarding the points of view of children with autism is caused by their limited participation in research and studies. It’s very difficult for children with autism to get involved and participate in studies because of the regimented structure autistic children need to follow to function. The reason behind this is autistic children become fearful, difficult and sometimes violent if there is a change in their routine. Studies then resorted to pictures of familiar objects, people and places so these adolescents with autism could communicate through using the photographs.

Using images to share life experiences with researchers

A study was done where each child with autism received a camera and was asked to photograph their experiences. The researchers wanted these photos to show the challenges these kids face as well as the imaging of things that bring them joy. By using these photographs, researchers were able to analyze and categorize the children’s answers. The researchers used themes to identify feelings of loneliness and sadness that appeared to be prevalent. Researchers did notice that many of the children took pictures of animals and said that animals helped them overcome their negative feelings. Therefore, there was a positive effect that revealed that animals were actually a breakthrough with children that have ASD.

Animals are a huge help in making their lives richer

There are differences in therapy dogs for autism and guide dogs. ASD therapy dogs are specially trained to help children with the ASD disorder. They help improve the individual’s communication skills, watch out for their safety, and even can help their pal in social situations. In addition, these animals can comfort these children during stressful situations and this includes helping keep the situation from blowing up into a violent event. Children with autism lash out when they don’t understand what is going on in their surroundings.

The special interactions

There are a few reasons why animals are valuable and used as a tool for certain people with ASD. Animals have a unique and keen sense to help focus on an individual’s attention. One study shows that children with autism study the faces of dogs longer than the faces of humans. It’s important to have an animal present to help keep a child with ASD pay close attention throughout the intervention.

People always love to talk when animals are present, which is why animals are social conversation pieces for people with autism. These people face social challenges every day. In addition, studies have also indicated that children with ASD smile and interact more frequently when their dogs are present. These children feel safe with their animals because they know that the animals are there to keep them safe.

Children with autism are at a higher risk of being a victim of a bully. These kids are more likely to experience stress in general. This is more of a greater concern during the school year. The non-judgmental companionship of their pet through animal-assisted therapy can help these children with relieving their stress and eliminate the feeling of awkwardness and loneliness that these children experience on a daily basis.

Therapy Dog versus Service Dogs

A therapy dog receives special training to learn how to provide consolation and affection. Therapy dogs are usually used in nursing homes, clinics, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities. These dogs are known for calming down a patient who is having surgery or they may assist patients in physical therapy and occupational therapy. They have a great ability to stimulate social interaction and stimulate calming effects. While many dogs do have special training for therapy, some dogs are especially calm. If one is looking to train a therapy dog from a puppy on, hold the puppy in your hand with their back in the palm of your hand. If the puppy is very calm, this is a good puppy to start training to be a therapy dog. It’s still best to get in touch with an accredited agency which can be found on the “Assistance Dogs International” website.

Service Dogs

Service dogs need professional training in order to perform their duties. It’s important to train a service dog professionally because an improperly trained dog can be dangerous to others around him or her. A service dog is trained to meet the specific needs of the person it assists. A service dog may help people with hearing problems, blind, mobility problems, diabetes to help check blood sugar, anxiety, epilepsy or autism.

A service dog that is trained to help children with autism may escort the child to the school, to the doctors, travels, shopping. Autism dogs are trained to recognize and help diffuse emotional meltdowns or to gently interfere with a person that could be displaying harmful behavior. A service dog may respond to an anxious situation by gently laying across the individuals’ lap.


There are many types of animals used for both adults and children with autism. Dogs, cats, rabbits, and even guinea pigs are being used to help people with ASD live better lives. Pets provide affection, calming effects, cuddle time and great happiness. Also, you may want to consider hassle-free pets if you have young kids.