Isn't it funny how people need to do research to confirm what we all already knew. Or maybe we are just running out of topics about which to research. Many years ago a member of Congress gave an annual Golden Fleece Award. It was given to the researchers who researched either the most inconsequential things or what we all already knew just using that old oxymoron, common sense.
A small study of only about 70 families has determined that having a pet in a family with a child with autism increases that child's prosocial behaviors. According to the study, smaller dogs did best but any pet could serve, including fish, farm animals, reptiles, cats and rabbits. The common denominator seems to be that these critters do not talk back, accept whatever level of affection the individual wishes to give and doesn't criticize. There is a lesson there for all of us. The study reported that it was easier for a child with autism to socialize with a cat or dog than with a human. DUH! The study said that a child with autism is also more likely to respond to questions about his/her per than about other topics. Double DUH! Don't we all talk more easily about topics in which we are interested.
It has been known forever that pets give the kind of unconditional love on which we all thrive. That's how dogs got to be man's and woman's best friend, they accept us as we are.
Now come children with autism. Who needs unconditional acceptance more than these quirky kids who are often cautious about socializing with others.
The Harbour School has always had a resident cocker spaniel. She or he greets the kids and gives them a friendly lick. The cockers have the run of the school and are not a distraction to learning because they are part of the landscape. The furry children (never called dogs) sit for treats and also serve as rewards for good behavior. Kids get to walk the puppy around the outside for bathroom breaks, lie on the floor and have a treat taken gently from their small ears or even take a 5 minute rest in a big bed on the floor snuggled with a furry faced child. The cockers are conversation starters for new students. We didn't need a research study to tell us that dogs are fascinating to kids, mostly non-threatening and become conversation starters because they are also non-intrusive topics and kids are curious about them.
Staying on the topic of "who didn't know that" research, did you know that dogs can be jealous of each other? Really such incredible information. Someone even wrote a book about that one. Too bad there are no more Golden Fleece Awards.