Humans interacting with pet companions have many benefits. Holding a pet can relax and calm you. But what about children with disabilities? Scientific research has concluded that pets and other friendly animals have a number of positive effects on children with special needs. There are various forms of animal meeting programs and animal therapy to help children with disabilities across the nation.
A recent study found that children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) greatly benefit from interacting with an animal. In this study, five to 13 children on the spectrum were observed on how they interacted with adults and peers. The researchers wanted to see if playing with guinea pigs would reduce social stress in children with autism. Children were paired with guinea pigs and then separately with toys. The study found that children were more talkative, making physical contact and looking at faces after encountering the animal. They also showed other social behavior improvements, such as smiling and laughing. There was less frowning, whining, and crying. Researchers also examined the biological impact of interacting with animals. They measured electrodermal activity on a wristband, which showed the children’s emotional arousal levels after executing a specified task, such as reading to himself/herself silently, reading out loud to the group and playing with the guinea pig. The children had high levels of anxiety while reading, yet lowered anxiety while playing with the guinea pigs. Interacting with the animals greatly calmed the children. Using findings from the final results, the study recommended that animals be used more in classroom settings to promote social interaction for children with autism.
Another form of animal interaction that has proven to help children with autism is equine therapy. Equine therapy helps promote emotional growth for children with disabilities. This form of therapy relies on the fact that horses behave similarly like human beings do in their social and responsive behavior; children easily can connect with the horse. Equine therapy aims for its patients or students to:
- Build sense of self-worth, self-concept
- Improve communication
- Build trust and self-efficiency
- Develop socialization skills and decrease isolation
- Learn impulse control and emotional management
- Set perspective
- Learn their limits or boundaries.
At the Deron School, we are dedicated to helping children with special needs. Our students discover talents, cultivate strengths, conquer challenges and fulfill dreams. Contact us today for more information about our schools.