Can an experience as ordinary as bringing home a pet trigger measurable improvements in children with autism? A recent study says yes, and although the claim needs further research, the results of the first inquiry are encouraging.
Researchers found that individuals with autism who received a pet in their home after the age of 5 demonstrated gains in their prosocial behaviors in just a few years, as compared to peers who had no pets or had lived with pets since birth. When they acquired a dog, cat, or hamster in early childhood, the children were more likely to pet or play with it than those who had always had an animal around. More strikingly, this group of children developed a better ability to comfort and share with their human family members.
You can read more about the study on Disability Scoop or The Huffington Post. And if you are considering getting a pet for your child with autism, you may want to read this advice from the author of Animal-Assisted Interventions for Individuals With Autism before taking such an important step.