Household pets have long been loved for their ability to divert the attention and to create lasting bonds with their owners. In recent years, cats and dogs, in particular, have been taken into nursing homes and hospitals to provide patients with a calming presence. Pets are particularly helpful for children with special needs, bringing these youngsters numerous physical and mental benefits.
The most notable benefit for special education students who own pets is decreased stress and anxiety. When interacting with a pet, the children typically have lowered cortisol levels; this hormone is responsible for stress. In addition, these children are often credited with happier aspects and improved socialization with peers and adults. Pets are particularly helpful for children with autism who may be able to open up verbally and socially while playing with their pets. Finally, some research has shown that pet ownership can improve speed and cognition in school.
While nearly all pets need regular care, such as clean living environments, food, water and plenty of attention, these sacrifices are often more than worth it for households with special needs children. Parents should ensure that their children are not afraid of the pet and should ensure that they have enough time and resources to care properly for the pet. In most instances, the right pet can bring love, acceptance and an improvement in socialization to children suffering from such problems as ADHD, autism and other physical and mental concerns.