A Note on Downloads

The content in this entire Coping With Autism page can be downloaded as part of a single document below.

Also, downloadable from this page is 'Matt's Daily Health Guide', my attempt to summarize general health related behaviors that I think everyone should consider. There are many recommendations therein that can be used to guide your care of your child, and yourself.

Dogs and Autism

If you have an autistic child, consider getting them a dog. The benefit of pets to humans is demonstrable. Elderly people with pets live longer. People with pets have generally higher self rated levels of happiness. Dogs in particular convey generous benefits to those who own them. I strongly suspect these benefits would accrue to autistic children.

Dogs provide tremendous emotional and psychological benefits. Dogs are purveyors of unconditional love and positive regard. They don’t play games. Their interactions are not subtle and hard to understand. They convey all of their emotions in an easy to understand manner. Happiness, sadness, fear and excitation are all easy to see in dogs, even for autistic children. They don’t apply pressure or social expectations that are challenging for autistic children to respond to. They don’t care that a child is different than the other children. They are happy to play with anyone interested in playing with them. A dog may be the only consistent friend an autistic child has, and the benefits of friendship cannot be overstated. Also, dogs can provide tremendous improvements to the cognitive appraisal of autistic children. They often improve one’s sense of control, predictability, and optimism, all of which are key buffers to stress. When you are paying attention to caring for a dog, you are less concerned with your own negative mood.

Dogs also provide direct physical benefits. They need movement usually in the form of walks, which beneficially drags along their caregivers. They like to roll around and play on the ground, providing vestibular and proprioceptive stimulation to those who play with them. Contact with their skin and fur provides firm physical touch, which is often needed by persons on the spectrum.

Moreover, dogs can assist in the development of behavioral control in autistic children. In order to avoid startling or scaring dogs, autistic children are motivated to learn how to control their emotions. It is easy to trace the impact of a melt down upon the mood of a dog, such that a child learns the consequences on others of their inability to control their own behaviors. Dogs are uncomplicated proxies for humans.

One note of caution. Dogs are not for everyone. For instance, I don’t particularly like dogs. I didn’t grow up with them. The moisture from their mouths and noses kind of freaks me out. They stress me out rather than calm me. However, I think I am more the exception than the rule. Before getting a dog for your child, observe their interactions with others’ dogs. If you child is calm and happy with dogs, that is a good indication they will respond positively to a dog in the home.


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