autistic child with pet

The Beneficial Effects Of Animals On Children With Autism – Hal Herzog

A couple of years ago I asked Temple Grandin if people with autism have a special ability to relate to animals. She is, of course, widely known for both her research on farm animal behavior and welfare and for her books on autism. She believes her autism gives her an unusual ability to think like, for example, a cow being herded down a chute in a slaughterhouse.

I was interested in this issue because my friend Ellen has two autistic sons.  Ellen told me that one of the kids, John, has especially deep relationships with their family’s dogs. This is not the case, however, with his brother Tim. The dogs freak Tim out.  “They are just too unpredictable for him,” she said.

When I told Temple Grandin about the boys and their completely different relationships with dogs, she was not surprised. She said that, in her experience, about a third of people with autism are unusually good with animals, about a third are terrible with animals, and a third, are about average in how they get along with other species.

But it would depend on the type of animal. A recent study published in the journal Developmental Psychobiology suggests that Guinea pigs might be the animal of choice for some children with autism.

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