A friend’s teen daughter who has high functioning autism enjoys her bird pets. She is aware of their heartbeats and she notices their beautiful eyelashes. Most wouldn’t see these special elements of birds. Maria’s sensitivity is an amazing gift and her caring for all animals is inspiring.
Animals are great healers for many children, especially those with autism. Animals open up their hearts and touch their spirits in such a way to help them expand their social skills. Kids with pets are said to do better socially with animals and they are more likely to introduce themselves to others ask for information and respond to people’s questions.
It is said a child’s assertiveness is stronger when he/she owns a pet. Kids are happier and talk more when animals are present. If a child with autism bonds with a pet, he/she can gain self-confidence and self-esteem. Autistic kids often become more accepting of sharing and interacting with other kids and their parents.
Pets are great distractions from life’s everyday stressors. They say pets help reduce anxiety as they often provide sensory stimuli and petting an animal can make a child feel better. Pets can even help children learn responsibility and how to care about others. Maria is a great example of all of this. Over the years I have seen her bloom and grow. She adores sharing her pet birds with me whenever I visit her home. She enjoys our dogs and cats. I can see a wonderful peace in her that the animals bring. Pets show unconditional love and acceptance without judgment. Trust is learned as well as respect, commitment, problem-solving skills, and language skills.
Keeping a pet happy and healthy can also give children a sense of freedom and accomplishment. Animal companions make kids feel they are a part of something, connected to life in a positive useful way—a special bond forms and kids feel loved for who they are and belong to something beautiful.
This article was featured in Issue 71 – Navigating A New Year