Autistic people can often have very strong bonds with animals. Whether this is a pet, a farm animal, or even a wild animal. When asked nearly every body with autism questioned said that the bonds and understanding they had with animals was one of the most positive aspects of their autism.
This isn’t to say that people with autism don’t have strong bonds with people, but there just seems to be something in the way autistic people can understand and interact with animals that is different from the way neuro-typical people might do so. It seems as if animals are less of a social burden on people with autism; perhaps because although they still have emotions these are not complicated, and erratic like people`s. Perhaps because animals are more tolerant and less judgemental than people – there could be any number of reasons. But the most common seems to be that autistic people find the presence of animals to be soothing. It helps them to relax and calm down after meltdowns, it helps make them more confident in social situations, and many other important things. Animals can also help people with autism express their emotions in way that perhaps they haven’t been able to with people.
The presence of animals tends to be especially important when it comes to autistic people being able to do things that perhaps neuro-typical people are encouraged to do by other humans. There are many examples of young autistic people not communicating verbally with their parents or families, and then suddenly talking in full sentences to the family dog. It has also been known for autistic people to express their emotions using animals, or to gain a better understanding of emotions. For example, not being able to recognise whether a human looks happy or sad, but being able to gauge the mood of their pet because they are so in-tune with it. For most neuro-typical people things such as emotional understanding, social interaction, confidence, independence, and expression of feelings are all traits that are developed and matured through relationships and interactions with other people. And while this can still be the case for autistic people, it is not as common. It appears that many autistic people gain and develop these skills through interactions with animals.
Because of how understanding and caring people with autism can be to animals, the relationship is often just as positive for the animal. This is not to say autistic people make better pet owners than anybody else, but it is not all the animal giving and the autistic person taking – it is mutually beneficial.
In conclusion, the understanding and close relationship that autistic people can often have with animals can bring all kinds of benefits. It can make autistic people more confident in social situations, and help to increase their independence and understanding of their own emotions. It can give them greater understanding of other people`s emotions as well, and even if it does not do any of this, it still provides a close relationship with another living creature which is a positive for anybody, autistic or not.
ASK-PERGERS? are writing a book about the benefits of animals for people with autism. If you would like to share your story with us please email us [email protected]. We would particularly like more stories related to horses and donkeys, or any animal other than cats and dogs – though we would still be happy to receive your cat or dog story! Thank you ☺ Paddy-Joe