One of the biggest things I have learned over the years (besides not being able to purchase sanity at the local drive thru) is that animals can have such a positive impact on an Autistic child. Animals have such a unique way of bonding with a special needs child.
Last week I introduced Maggie, our English Staffy. People are deathly afraid of her due to her very aggressive appearance. However, after meeting her EVERYONE falls in love with her. She never fails to amaze me with how good she is with our kids. Today was another great example. She has this three ring pull toy. She is very “enthusiastic” when it comes to tug of war because she will always win (doesn’t matter how strong you are because she’s stronger).
I thought tug of war with the big rubber rings may be an excellent sensory outlet for Gavin. My concern was how aggressive she would play. As soon as I pick up the rings she latches on and is over. She is quiet capable of dislocating your shoulder. Here is the amazing part. Elliott Richard picks up the rings and she will very carefully grab the other end and just allow him to pull against her weight. She never gets rough even though he wants her to. Gavin picks up the rings and it’s like she knows exactly what he needs. She will shake him around a bit. She never lunges toward him like she does me. She let’s him work out what he needs to work out and that’s it. Emmett John likes to get in on the action so he picks up the rings. She will pick up the other end (because EJ gets mad if she doesn’t) and sits there while he pulls and gets what he needs out of it.
She even goes so far to put herself between Gavin and the kids when he melts down. Lately as Gavin gets more aggressive she barks at him backs him away from the kids when he gets to close and endangers the kids. Sometimes Gavin needs to rough house as part of his sensory needs. She will wrestle with him and even “chew” on his hands and arms (gently of course). Gavin loves it and it does help to bring him back down when he’s all worked up.
We also have 3 cats. We have them for a few reasons. Gavin feels as though he will never how to see another mouse with them there. Gavin is terrified of mice. The other reason is because of Lizze. She suffers from fibromyalgia. They have been dubbed her migraine cats. Without fail they will take turns sitting with her while she suffers through her migraines. They will lay on her shoulders around the back of her new and purr. They always know when she is in pain (which is quiet often).
They help to calm her and she can relax and close her eyes. They would also take turns laying next to Emmett John while he spent weeks and weeks on the apnea monitor. They just somehow knew he would stop breathing and laying next to him to keep watch.
These are just a few of the positive impact animals have had on our lives as well as the lives of our special needs kids. It’s something to really think about if you are in a position to take on the added responsibility.