Courtesy of Sarah Schrodt
Dogs and horses are the animals most often chosen to compliment therapy for individuals with autism, however; birds, cats, and even dolphins have also played a role in therapy. Studies have shown that by using animals to compliment therapy, persons with autism show less signs of anxiety and become a motivating factor, especially for children.
In a study entitled "The Effects of Animal-Assisted Therapy on a Child with Autism" it was found that a five-year-old autistic boy underwent huge advances in communication from being totally without ability to communicate to completing a full sentence. The boy spent time with an eight-year-old cattle dog, formed a bond with the dog, and the transformation began. Changes in behavior also took place. Before the study, the boy threw tantrums and new activities were stressful. After beginning the study, the young boy showed signs of curiosity when experiencing new activities and his self-assurance level increased. In the same study it was concluded that, through animal treatment, children with autism may be able to lower blood pressure, treat symptoms of insomnia and headaches, reduce the feeling of loneliness.
It has been long-known that animals can soothe and comfort people and families, so it should be no shock that they also provide therapeutic effects to those who most need it. Animals have a place in autism therapy and studies continue to prove that man's best friend may also be man's useful therapy.