A recent study has found that pets play an important role in improving the social skills of children with autism as well as making them more assertive.
The study found that children with autism have stronger social skills when any kind of pet lived in the home. Gretchen Carlisle, research fellow at the University of Missouri in the US said, “Kids with autism do not always readily engage with others, but if there is a pet in the home that the child bonds with and a visitor starts asking about the pet, the child may be more likely to respond.”
Pets often serve as “social lubricants”, Carlisle said. As per the study, when pets are present in social settings or a classroom, children talk and engage more with one another. Carlsile mentioned that this effect also seems to apply to children with autism and could account for their increased assertiveness when the children are living in a home with pets.
Dogs and other pets play an important role in individuals’ social lives, and they can act as catalysts for social interaction. The researchers found it based on the survey conducted in 70 families who had children with autism between the ages of 8 and 18.
“When I compared the social skills of children with autism who lived with dogs to those who did not, the children with dogs appeared to have greater social skills,” Carlisle added.
“More significantly, the data revealed that children with any kind of pet in the home reported being more likely to engage in behaviour such as introducing themselves, asking for information or responding to other people’s questions,” said Carlisle.
He added, “Kids with autism don’t always readily engage with others, 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.” He has also said that while dogs are good for some kids with autism, it might not be the best option for every child.