The importance of being on the spectrum and animal connections

Animals of any kind can greatly benefit people on the spectrum in many different ways – they provide companionship, support and they are non – judgemental when you need the support the most. Animals are also a great way of providing stimulation and focus and could even lead to a special interest. They can also provide a sense of responsibility for a person, giving them a better perception of self-awareness and value, providing a sense of achievement, this can provide a lot of motivation for future acts that make them feel like this again. Having the love and companionship of a pet can make a person feel important and help them develop a positive self-image.

Regarding children specifically, Studies have also shown that pets can help calm hyperactive or overly aggressive kids – both factors can be found in children with ASD or other Neurodiversity’s. Of course, both the animal and the child need to be trained to behave appropriately with each other, but there are many charities that facilitate this in the UK. A pet can also help develop a young and expanding mind by teaching a child empathy and understanding – both of which a child on the spectrum can struggle with. Kids can talk with their pet without a fear of rejection, which enables them to build their confidence, and even their vocabulary.

Many people on the spectrum also have a need to have routine throughout their day – and in many ways, animals are the same. They need feeding and walking at certain times throughout the day. For this reason, a person may feel that they can a link between themselves and the pet and therefore, can associate and connect with them, but also create a feeling of being balanced and calm. Things like this can easily be added to part of someone’s daily routine and they may even look forward to it. This is an example of how a pet can provide a sense of responsibility and value.

After reading an interesting study by the University of Missouri done in 2013, I found their findings something to which I could relate. They showed that dogs are a fantastic way for individuals that struggle socially to interact with other people, they are a perfect gateway to initiate conversation and provide a mutual interest between two parties. People who are emotionally attached to their pets are better able to build relationships with other people.

Pets can also provide a settled environment in which a person can relax and decompress. From a personal standpoint, nothing is better when I have had a difficult day, than to cuddle up with my dog and relax – over my lifetime, my dogs have been there for some pretty sad times in my life, and they have always made me feel better!

Before starting Grace’s Goodies, I worked with animals for over 10 years and throughout that time, I worked with thousands of individuals, families and social care groups that attended my workplace as a way of therapy – animals are a calming influence and individuals may feel safer and more comfortable creating a bond with them as opposed to a human.

Not only can animals be good for someone’s mental welfare, but also their physical well-being. Having a pet (especially a dog, livestock, etc.) can get a person moving through activity, walks and play throughout the day. This can help with Occupational Therapist recommendations and getting someone on the spectrum outside the house, connecting with nature and creating more social awareness with support of their pet.

 

Overall, animals can reduce stress, anxiety levels and sensory issues (all of which someone on the spectrum can suffer with) and provide a more balanced mental and physical state. For a person on the spectrum, this can be a huge transformation in daily life, providing a calm and safe space for this person, which can lead to better communication, better social interests, improved physical health and a confirmation that routine is important in their daily life.

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