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Are Pets Good for a Child with Autism?

Learn if having a pet is good for a child with autism from pediatrician and child development expert Asma J. Sadiq, M.D. in this Howcast video.

Transcript

Is having a pet good for a child with autism? There has been some interesting research that has made this a very interesting topic, where a study was done, and a child with autism, who had a pet dog or a cat for example, had increase in empathy and ability to share. Now what is interesting is that this was in children who actually connected with that particular pet, and it's not children who had pets in their home from when they were born, but actually taken into their home when they were five years of age. So there was actually an interest that the child had in the pet, and that correlates with the degree to which there's benefit from it. This awareness of the animal, of the other, it sort of helps them break through this being more in their own world. And it was wonderful to see children being able to actually feed the dog, have a sense of wanting to take care of the dog, and actually have increase in empathy. So this is a small study, but there was a lot of excitement around it, because there was positive data showing. There's correlation.

It doesn't mean that everybody with a child with autism should go get a pet. Look at the allergies, if you have any of those. But there's definitely a lot of interesting data with keeping a pet and helping a child who is depressed, getting them out of yourself, so it only makes sense that a child with autism as well would have this kind of positive response. Pet therapy is used in hospitals and it's, you know, the loyalty of the dog or this unconditional love, the sense of connection is something that we don't quite understand, but we know it exists. Children with autism are also swimming with dolphins and having horse therapy, and it's the interaction with the other living form that helps increase the empathy and connectedness and the ability to share. These are the two areas that are really beneficial for children who have this particular kind of condition.

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