New research from the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine has shown that autistic children who live with any kind of pet in the home are more assertive and social than autistic children with no pets.
Gretchen Carlisle, a research fellow at the school’s Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction, has found that autistic children with pets are better able to interact with other people than those without pets. Pets are a social lubricant for most people, and autistic children are no different in their increased social engagement when animals are present.
Carlisle notes that children with autism are more likely to interact with people—even those they don’t know well—if the people show interest in or ask questions about a pet the child is fond of. These improved social skills seem to be particularly true with small dogs, but all autistic children are unique, and some more sensitive children may do better with other lower energy pets, such as cats or rabbits.
Regardless of the type of pet, this research proves that living with animals improves the quality of life for most of us, autistic children included.
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