New Study Explores Connection between Pets and Kids with Autism
A recent study conducted in France explored the connection between autistic children raised with a dog or cat compared to those who were not. Although there is plenty of anecdotal evidence concerning the benefit of animals for people afflicted with autism, this is the first study that attempts to scientifically prove a connection.
The researchers tested the behavior and intelligence of 260 children with autism. They found that children who had become pet owners after age 5 performed better than those who never acquired a furry friend. Of course there were variables that affected the outcome such as how much the child actually bonded with the pet. This was an important aspect as it influenced how well the children eventually responded to social interactions. Owning a pet since birth did not seem to influence the socialization behaviors of the child, rather, the introduction of one after they are able to recognize it was critical.
The population size for the study was small, which is always a cause for concern when confirming a finding or theory. Despite the connection that was found, several larger studies need to be conducted before it is accepted as completely factual. It is also important for families with autistic children to consider the implications of owning a pet and the accompanying responsibilities. Raising an autistic child can be difficult at times and adding additional responsibilities to the mix may not always be the best decision. It is important for families to cater to the child to some extent and a pet purchase should only be considered if the child so desires.