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Researchers at the Autism Resource Center at Hospital Bohars in France found that a pet may help kindegartners with autism to develop their social skills. However, other experts suggest that families explore all the options before rushing out and adopting a pet.
"People who work with autistic kids and animals often see amazing progress in their clients," said Pavlides, web editor of Autism After 16 and author of Animal-assisted Interventions for Individuals with Autism. "For some children—and adults—on the autism spectrum, engaging with an animal can open up channels of communication and interaction that were previously closed. That said, not all autistic people are going to find animal interactions helpful or even pleasant. For some, sensory issues triggered by proximity to animals can be overwhelming.”
Pavlides suggests finding a therapist or therapy animal group to provide opportunities for children with disabilities to interact with pets.
In addition, she suggests that making pet adoption very much a family affair, involving all the siblings and parents living in the house.
"Adding a pet to the family is a huge responsibility," she said. "Being thoughtful in embarking on pet ownership is in the best interest of everyone, including the pet."
She also urges considering other animal-assisted interventions, such as therapeutic riding.