Pets have been found to play a major role in improving the social skills of autistic children. The study also revealed that keeping pets made the autistic child more self confident and assertive. Autistic children in homes which had pets were seen to possess stronger social skills.
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.”
Carlisle calls them social lubricants. The study revealed that when pets were present in any social setting or in the classroom, children tend to become more communicative with one another. Carlisle feels that the same effect were seen when autistic children were in close proximity to pets, they talk and engage more with one another. Pets could be the reason for autistic children becoming more assertive and confident.
Dogs or other pets play a crucial role in shaping the individuals social status since they augment social interactions. This conclusion was derived from a survey of 70 families who had autistic children in between the ages of 8 to 18 years.
Carlisle added, “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. More significantly, the data revealed that children with any kind of pet in the home reported being more likely to engage in behavior such as introducing themselves, asking for information or responding to other people’s questions,” said Carlisle.
Carlisle further said that autistic children remain aloof and do not converse readily with others. A pet in the home meant that the child is emotionally bonded with the pet and whenever a person asks about the pet, the child is more likely to respond.