Pets and Autism

Previous studies show that pets encourage social interaction, and there have been reports of dogs helping children with autism develop their social skills. But before this new study, from a researcher the University of Missouri (MU), nobody had shown this might also true of other types of pet.

Dr. Gretchen Carlisle, research fellow in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine's Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction (ReCHAI), says when pets are present in the home, the classroom, or other social setting, children tend to interact and talk to each other more.

The pets serve as "social lubricants," she explains, noting that this increase in social interaction when pets are around also appears to be true of children with autism. This could account for the increased assertiveness she found in autistic children who had pets living at home.

"Kids with autism don't always readily engage with others," says Dr. Carlisle, "but if there's a pet in the home that the child is bonded with and a visitor starts asking about the pet, the child may be more likely to respond."

Click here to read about the study by Dr Carlisle

Click here for more evidence that pets foster social skills in children with Autism

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