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Pets and Children with Disabilities - About Animals and Kids

Updated on March 19, 2012

"Animals are reliable, many full of love, true in their affections, predictable in their actions, grateful and loyal. Difficult standards for people to live up to."

~ Alfred A. Montapert

Pets Teach Kids So Much

A pet can enrich a household with the joy and love they bring to the family. Children learn about responsiblity, empathy, companionship, love and caring for someone else. Kids gain a sense of self confidence and compassion because their pet is their friend.

When it comes to children and the bonds they form with their pets, it really doesn’t matter what pet they have. Dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, fish, small animals reptiles, fish, turtles all help them build powerful bonds with their pets.

Pets teach children about life and about death. Dealing with the loss of a beloved pet helps them deal with their feelings, and to prepare for the many tough things in life. Children learn about healthy living habits, appropriate care, and concern about others.

Children learn to be a leader. Giving commands to a dog, teaching them tricks, and having them follow your child, helps them feel like they are important, gain confidence and develop a sense of authority in their own abilities.

Learning to interact with their pets helps them feel more comfortable with other animals. It helps them avoid phobias of animals, and perhaps be open to new experiences.

Children learn that their behavior influences a pet’s behavior. Teaching your child not to feed the dog from the table will teach the dog not to beg for food while everyone is eating. Pets help children mature and to be more curious.

Amazing Things Happen Between Children and Pets

A family pet can do much to enrich the lives of children. Pets teach kids many things. And for children with disabilities, there are amazing things taking place when an animal begins to touch their lives.

AAT(Animal Assisted Therapy) can work wonders for children with disabilities. Kids are innately attracted and curious about animals. A pet makes it easy for a child to relate and empathize with their companion, in ways that are easier than with people. The complex nature of people can not always do what a companion animal can for a child. In research studies, it has been noted that children appear more relaxed with pets. Animal assisted therapy has already proven to be very effective for children who have developmental disorders, emotional disorders, and Down’s syndrome. Animals have a way of engaging all children. These children in studies,learned to gain eye contact, share, play, speak in non aggressive tones, and other techniques that were able to successfully transfer to human interaction. Because animals are non judgmental, they don’t reject or argue, and the unconditional love they provide, it makes this an easier environment to grasp these skills.

Animals help children form basic attachments to another living being. This bond helps children learn to trust. AAT has helped children who are autistic, those with Rett’s syndorme, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy and other disorders and disabilities. AAT has made greater strides than other traditional therapies. A school based program for autistic children, using AAT showed an increase in speech, self-initiated interactions,improve social behaviors and create other positive changes in children who were previously withdrawn in the class. Children with Down’s Syndrome were more attentive in sessions that included a dog.

Pets Help Children Gain a Sense of Trust

Positive effects were seen in residential facilities as well. Children were seen talking to the animals when they needed someone to confide in. Kids said they trusted the animals because they were non judgmental and the animals would not repeat what the child had said to anyone else. Children also could feel that the animal did not know they were “different”. Sometimes it can be therapeutic just to talk and have someone listen. They also found that the children gained a trust in the animal and this made them more ready to express themselves to a therapist.

AAT has shown very positive results in children. Children who previously did not talk much, began smiling more, sharing more and interacting more. AAT can break down barriers that humans are just not able to do. Children with autism who have pets were found to have less meltdowns.

New studies have shown that pets can also help children to read. Children are sometimes afraid of making mistakes, but thanks to a dog’s non judgmental attitude, just by listening the child is encouraged to read. It was found that children who read out loud to dogs had improved reading skills within a 12 week period, compared to those who didn’t read to a dog. The kids feel that someone is listening when they read. No one laughs at their mistakes. Kids also feel more relaxed when they are with the dog.

Dogs Bond the Entire Family

Guide Dogs and Companion Pets help children and adults who are blind or physically disabled. Children with seizure disorders who never leave their home, can go out with their dog because they are never alone now. Children who walk with braces showed an increase in their self confidence and greater independence when a dog was their motivator. Studies have shown that a service dog in the family reduced the hours needed for paid and family members who assist the children with activities of daily living. These dogs help reduce stress and anxiety for the parents and the children. The entire family becomes engaged in interacting and caring for the dog. Children sleep better through the night. Communication, friendships, and social interaction greatly improve for the child.

There Are Many Benefits Pets Give Children

An animal can inspire children to make greater strides to help them integrate into the world, better than the greatest technology available. Pets can provide physical and emotional therapy to children with varying types of developmental problems. A companion animal helps all children bond, trust and love. Their loyalty and companionship will make any child feel better about who they are. We are in the early stages of learning the many benefits pets provide kids. There are many promising results on the horizon and these successes have just begun.

Animals are fun to be with. Their carefree nature, the comfort they provide, their humorous antics and their need to be loved inspire us all to reach outside ourselves to touch them. And pets touch a part us that reminds us to live in the moment, to put aside our own self absorption, fears and uncertainties. They are magical with children, and can make an impact that will better their lives forever. Pets are powerful motivators, healers, and teachers.

Have You Ever Bonded with a Pet?

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    • profile image

      Mj 2 years ago

      Pets are wonderful and I'm not surprised about this they bring joy!!

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      We are past the age of having children in the house but I found the part about children reading to pets interesting.Something that would not occur to me.voted this hub up,useful and interesting.

    • profile image

      DoItForHer 5 years ago

      A young girl here with autism had trouble with many social settings. But now with her wolf dog she is able to eat at restaurants and engage in many other activities that before would have sent her into periods of great stress. She now has a more fulfilling life.

    • b. Malin profile image

      b. Malin 5 years ago

      Pets are such Wonderful "People" why do I say that, because they watch us, they learn from us, both good and bad...But in the end THEY reward Us with wet kisses, and Loyalty, and Unconditional LOVE. A Very Enjoyable and Enlightening read Toknowinfo.

    • Ruby H Rose profile image

      Maree Michael Martin 5 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

      Yes, truly a wonderful bonding experience, hard to remember they are not people sometimes.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great hub,yes there are many benefits a pet can give to the entire family, and we can learn a lot from our pets to better our life has well.

      Vote up and more !!!

      P.S. miss reading your comments on my hubs my friend :(

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 5 years ago

      You are welcome. And thanks for writing such an intelligent question. I appreciate your up vote and sharing my hub.

    • Linda Bliss profile image

      Linda Liebrand 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks for answering my question! Voted up and shared :-)