Pets and Autism

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Teacher’s Diary

A number of preliminary clarifications need to be made before looking at what autism is in children. A very significant topic that I love bringing to the front burner at all times. So, this is not a new topic in the series of my weekly articles.

First, research has shown that companion animals in the home have been shown to aid families of children with autism. A HABRI-funded study that investigated the impact of a pet dog on families with a child with autism found that families showed significant reductions in family difficulties and in parental stress over the long-term.

Secondly, a review published in the journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine has also shown evidence that therapy dogs can play a crucial role in helping autistic patients develop communication and social skills. The team reviewed six published studies that covered the effects of dogs on children with autism.

Now when your child want to be alone, it’s alright if this isn’t always the case. In children, the inability to relate with others in socially acceptable ways gets teachers querying autism amongst other likely problems. The diagnosis of autism is more popularly made on the basis of behavioral assessments. A collation of your child’s teacher’s observations and of course yours, are crucial for these behavioral assessments. When therefore, your doctor suggests that your child has autism, your immediate reaction might be of panic, denial, fear, disbelief and the urge to seek repeat medical opinions.

Autism is different in every child and could be a dodgy disorder to diagnose. Notwithstanding, there are a few key ways in which doctors identify autism in children. If your infant or toddler is showing any of the signs of autism, you should visit your child’s doctor immediately with your concerns. Autism occurs at a young age and can be detected around age two or three. Clear autistic signs are many times even noticeable much earlier.
The first signs of autism are typically delays or regression in speech and communication. Another early sign is abnormal behavior in group play situations and other social situations. The first step to diagnosing autism is a thorough physical examination as well as a review of family history by a specialist. Although your regular pediatrician should be able to spot unusual behavior, you should want your child to be examined by a professional who specialises in autism and other similar disorders to ensure your child is properly diagnosed.

The next step should include hearing tests. It is important to make sure that your child is hearing clearly. If you’ve noticed that he/she is displaying language and social skill delays, it could be that he/she is experiencing inadequate auditory sensations. There are two types of auditory tests. The first records the tones the child can hear. The other requires sedation and measures the brain’s response to certain tones. Of course, the first method is preferred, since it does not require any use of a sedative. After auditory testing, your doctor may encourage testing your child for Fragile X syndrome because this disorder often times goes hand in hand with autism. Your child’s metabolism can also be evaluated. To do this, your doctor would need their blood or urine sample.

An MRI, CT or CAT scan can also be helpful in diagnosing autism. These days, many brain imaging analysis have revealed that there are differences in the grey matter between children who have and do not have autism. Available scientific literatures report that there are findings suggesting that children who experience the most severe autism, have the most profound brain structure differences. Using brain imaging is finding that specific networks within the brain that’s associated with social communication skills, have a peculiar structure in children within the Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

Autism is difficult to diagnose and even more difficult to manage. There is mega useful information out there. You should begin to learn as much as possible about the disorder as soon as your medical practitioner identifies it. If you haven’t spoken with your doctor about the abnormal behaviour you’ve noticed in your child, do so immediately. By detecting autism early, you would give your child a better chance of becoming a high-functioning individual with much more opportunities to access more social and life-skills.
Finally, children that have been successfully diagnosed can now be aided with the company of animals like pet dogs as stated supra. Therapy dog can ease bout of restlessness and anxiety in children. They are known to offer relief from stress for children and a form of a full covered security.
Omoru is a freelance writer, education, health and social care advocate