Most children love animals and want to have pets. This includes children with autism. Pets can be a wonderful addition to the family, but it can create problems and sometimes be harder on the pet than the family members. Is it advisable?
Before thinking about purchasing a pet for a family with an autistic child, it is advisable to take into consideration what kind of pet does the family want in their home. For example, is it going to be a dog, cat, bird, hamsters, what exactly is the pet going to be? In addition, the family should discuss the care of the pet, the cost, is it an indoor pet, an outdoor pet, who will have the responsibility to take care of the pet. Will it be a family joint effort, where all the family members will take turns and share the load of taking care of the pet, including the child with autism.
The individual who has autism in the family, may love the pet, but may not be able to take responsibility of caring for the pet. In other words, take the pet for a walk, if it is a dog, feed the pet, clean up the debris of the pet and litter that is accumulated, allowing the animal inside the house or outside the house for exercise and fresh air.
There are certain pets that require more care and attention than others do. This is true compared to having a cat as a pet verses a dog as a pet. Dogs usually require more attention, and care than cats do. It is a good idea to take into consideration, who is going to be home during the day with the pet. In addition, what about traveling or taking a vacation, will the pet be able to travel with the family, or will you have to hire someone? Will the pet adjust to traveling or the care of someone else?
Pets in a family with autism can be very therapeutic and can encourage the autistic child to have responsibility, follow instructions, love the pet with hugs, petting it, talking to it, crying and expressing emotions to the pet, that they may not do with other family members. It is imperative to realize, some autistic children display outbursts of anger and tantrums. Because of this kind of behavior in autistic children, you must remember that having a pet in the home may be a target for this kind of behavior. It is wise, not only to think of the family having a pet with a child that has autism, but take into consideration how the pet will adjust and be affected by the child if he or she has outbursts of anger or tantrums. The pet should never be in any danger with the child present if this occurs.
Take your child and family members to various pet stores, visit other families who own and take care of pets, to evaluate if your child with autism responds to the various kinds of pets in a positive way. Purchase a stuffed animal that looks or is the same kind of pet you and your family want as part of the home. Take the stuffed animal and practice and show the child what to expect when the animal comes home as a permanent pet. For example, if you decide to purchase a dog, buy a small leash, some dishes for the dog food, show the child where the dog is going to sleep, practice taking the stuffed animal for a walk with the leash, practice having the stuffed pet drink water and eat food out the dishes, let the child know, dogs bark, growl, cats meow, sometimes claw furniture, climb and jump. Make it a fun part of the child with autism so he or she becomes aware of what to expect if an animal as a pet, is brought home.