The Benefits of Animal Therapy For Autism

For those of us who have had pets in our lives, it’s no great surprise to learn that interactions with animals can have therapeutic and healing benefits. Many animals soothe, comfort, and calm, just by their quiet presence. And animals are now also being used as a form of autism therapy.

A New Mexico Highlands University School of Social Work graduate student named Jennifer Baról lead a research project to study the benefits and impact of animal-assisted therapies on children with autism when used as a treatment tool.

The study, entitled “The Effects of Animal-Assisted Therapy on a Child with Autism” ran for 15 weeks between July and November of 2006. It was geared toward the goal of discovering whether or not there is any evidence that therapies based on animal-assistance would be able to improve an autistic child’s social skills.

The results of the study were interesting. For example, before undergoing the animal-assisted therapy with an eight-year-old Australian Cattle Dog named Henry, participant Zachary, who was five years old, experienced a dramatic struggle in order to communicate. Zachary was prone to throwing tantrums as well as covering his ears and eyes when he became frustrated with his lack of ability to be understood. Participation in new activities was stressful to him. He couldn’t understand how to play with others and had never before uttered a complete sentence.

However, once Zachary met and bonded with Henry, he went through a virtual transformation. His self-assurance level is much higher and he is willing to experience new activities with an obvious curiosity. Furthermore, Zachary is better able to understand what is going on around him, including the needs of others. Moreover, halfway through the therapy for the research project, Zachary completed his first sentence.

In the case of Zachary, a whole new world of experiences and understanding was opened up by the animal-assisted therapy. Within the mental hospital clinical reports, there have been many reports of autistic children who have built strong relationships with individual animals, such as pet dogs or cats. When autistic children play with animals, any violent tendencies they may have will typically disappear. They take on quite maternal characteristics, taking special care of the animal including feeding, cleaning up after them, and interacting with them.

The blood pressure of autistic children will also usually be lowered when experiencing an animal treatment. Furthermore, symptoms such as insomnia and headache can be eased with this treatment.

The companionship of animals can help reduce any lonely feelings in autistic children, promoting a base of healthy character development within them, including personality traits such as being respectful, trusting, contributing, committed, self-confident, and responsible. Autistic children can also learn decision-making skills, problem-solving skills, and both language and social skills through interactions with animals.

This kind of therapy can be beneficial overall, as well as in times of greater trial, such as puberty – when your child will go through many changes and have many questions and will be in need of greater stress relief.



Source by Rachel Evans

Autism Therapies – Effective Ways Of Treating Individuals With Autism

It might come as a major shock to parents to find their child being diagnosed with  Autism   Spectrum  Disorder (ASD). Most of the times, they are left with an overwhelming query as to what should be the right treatment approaches that would adequately improve their development and behaviors. While there are various education programs and treatment procedures that can contribute immensely to the growing and learning of these individuals with special needs, it is extremely important that the treatment courses are started as early as possible to produce the best results.

Apart from medicines and behavioral training, there are various  autism  therapies that can prove to be highly beneficial in the all-round development of an individual on the  autism   spectrum . Some of the therapies include:

Occupational Therapy: This is highly beneficial in developing coordination and motor skills.

Speech Therapy: This helps in improving language and communication skills.

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) Training: This is a useful treatment method for  autism  and associated behavioral problems such as slapping others, head-banging etc.

Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) Training: This is a recently invented treatment approach that is used to develop in children the ability to socialize with other people.

Sensory Therapy: Children with  autism  can have various sensory problems. While some of them are highly sensitive to external stimuli like light, sound and touch, some do not respond at all to these stimuli. Sensory therapies help considerably in improving and stabilizing such sensory problems.

It has been demonstrated in various scientific studies that autistic children who are subjected to early treatments show considerable improvement in communication, learning and social skills. With this aspect in mind, researchers have designed a number of  autism  therapies that can help individuals immensely. Though the effectiveness of these therapies may vary in each individual, there are certain important aspects that should be present in any good therapeutic program.

  • Any child on the  autism   spectrum  should be subjected to the therapy sessions for a minimum of 25 hours per week.
  • The therapists or teachers conducting the sessions should be highly trained, skilled and qualified. It is also beneficial to have trained paraprofessionals working under the guidance of knowledgeable professionals having expertise in  autism  therapy, to support the program.
  • The therapy programs should contain clear and precise learning goals with appropriate techniques to assess, evaluate and record the child’s ability to meet the goals.
  • The therapeutic sessions should be designed in a way to focus on the main aspects of the child’s personality that have been majorly impacted by  autism , including language and communication skills, social skills, motor skills, play skills and the abilities of self-care.
  • The programs should provide a platform for the child, where they can interact with a peer group with the same development issues.
  • The programs should allow parents to take active part in both decision making and implementation of the program.
  • The therapy sessions should integrate an entire team of professionals including a physician, a speech therapist and an occupational therapist.
  • The therapists should exhibit an adequate level of compassion and understanding of the child and their family.

Source by Ryan Judd