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Special Dogs Help Special Kids

February 21, 2014

Animals can have a significant positive impact on the lives of children with special needs. This was the case when a Georgia family recently brought home a pit bull puppy from a rescue center. The puppy, recovering from the effects of severe malnutrition and neglect, quickly bonded with the family’s young son, who had been diagnosed with autism. Through this friendship, the boy began to emerge from his emotional isolation.

In another moving story, a paralyzed dachshund, who had been abandoned in a Dumpster in Florida, got a new home after care from a shelter saved his life. A staff member had discovered the small dog near the shelter, and workers found that he was unable to move his tail or hindquarters. Shelter staff told the dog’s adoptive family that, as an older animal with special needs, he would require extra care. The family enthusiastically rose to the challenge, and the dog soon learned to use a donated wheelchair to move around. Now, the children’s mother credits their new friend with helping her kids overcome significant sensory and social challenges.

Stories like these demonstrate the tremendous impact that interaction with animals can have on the social development of children with autism. A recent study from the University of Queensland, Australia, seems to concur, finding that children on the autism spectrum who interacted with pets laughed and smiled more and enjoyed more positive social interactions with peers.


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