Asperger’s syndrome is a mild version of autism. Even though children with Asperger’s usually cope much better in relationships with their peers and also in everyday situations, they may still have troubles in social situations and feel isolated. They may also experience the unpleasant effects of sensory integration problems. Can pet therapy help with these issues?
A toy or a friend?
Some parents believe that a pet is just a toy which the children will discard when they become bored with it. However, for a child with Asperger’s syndrome, for whom relationships with other children may prove stressful and not always satisfactory, a pet, who doesn’t judge, doesn’t demand, doesn’t speak in a language which is sometimes hard to understand, may become a friend and a safe haven.
Everyone needs such a safe haven. Especially children with Asperger’s syndrome, for whom seeking comfort and understanding in other people may sometimes be a cause of tension.
What kind of pet?
Let your child choose. Usually, children will go for fluffy, cosy pets, such as dogs or cats. If your child wants a puppy, explain that the puppy will soon grow and become an adult dog. Show your child pictures of the adult dogs of the chosen breed and make sure he or she really wants it.
If you’d rather have a less messy alternative, there are a lot of options for you. If your child would prefer something fluffy, there are all kinds of hamsters, chinchillas, dormice, or even rats. And if your child would prefer something scaly, lizards and tortoises are also interesting animals to investigate.