STUDIES REVEAL THAT EXOTIC PETS CAN TRANSFORM THE LIVES OF CHILDREN WITH AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER. THESE PETS HELP INCREASE ATTENTION SPAN, RELAX THE MIND AND BODY, AND IMPROVE COMMUNICATION WITH PEERS AND FAMILY MEMBERS.
Bearded dragon lizard: Great for kids with Asperger’s who are intelligent, high-functioning, and like attention to detail. Dragon lizards require daily detailed attention: appropriate light, heat, temperature, humidity, nutrition, vitamin supplements. Laurie treats a bearded dragon belonging to a10-year-old boy with Asperger’s who, before he got his pet, exhibited chronic aggressive and impulsive behavior toward other people. His mom says he is now a lot calmer and very gentle and patient with the pet in a way he never is with people. He loves feeding him crickets and misting him with water every morning before school.
Budgie (parakeet): Perfect choice for children on the spectrum with poor verbal communication and/or social skills. Budgies can be taught to speak if words are spoken repeatedly to it. This encourages the child to speak words out loud for the bird to hear and repeat back. Laurie sees a 12-year-old girl who is anti-social, non-communicative, painfully shy, and has very few friends. When she got her parakeet, she started speaking words to it every day. Her parents say she now interacts more with her family and other kids while practicing language with her bird. She started inviting kids to the house to see the bird and developed her first peer-friendships this way.
Large red-footed tortoise: Great choice for a child who is sensitive to overstimulation or with severe ADHD. These pets are slow moving, quiet, and easy to watch and focus on. Laurie’s client: A boy with ADHD who was doing very poorly in school because he couldn’t focus. He started doing better when he began doing homework in the presence of his tortoise because he was encouraged to sit still, right next to the tortoise’s cage, and therefore able to concentrate on his homework and pay attention more easily.
Domesticated rat: Ideal choice for a child who has problems expressing emotions. These animals are super intelligent and highly social, making them particularly attuned to human emotion. They’re also extremely affectionate and form very close bonds with their owners. Studies show that interaction with these pets also reduces stress. (Laurie’s client: a 15 year old autistic girl who has a a difficult time making eye contact with humans. The family adopted a rat and the teenager immediately bonded with it. She makes eye contact with the rat and in his presence expresses herself more than she ever has.