Many autistic people swear by the deep relationships we build with animals. In fact, beyond the comfort of companionship, pets can support autistic people in unique ways.
When overstimulated, stressed, or nearing a meltdown, autistic people may benefit from the calming pressure of a pet sitting in our laps or on our chests.
According to a study by Azubu University, dog-owners experience a release of the “love chemical” oxytocin after making eye contact with their beloved dogs. For autistics, this is especially soothing, since eye contact with dogs comes with no social strings attached.
Executive functioning skills, like time management, are often a struggle for autistic people. Pets can be trained to alert us to specific times of day, like when we need to take medicine or leave for work.
Owning a pet can become an easy topic to bring up during uncomfortable small talk situations. Even more, if an autistic person needs to set a boundary and stay home for their own mental health, a pet can be used as a great excuse!
Many autistic people struggle with falling and staying asleep. According to Mary W. Rose, PsyD, CBSM, pets in the bedroom can ease nightmares and other sleep disorder symptoms. This is thanks to phenomena like increased feelings of security and human-to-pet heartbeat syncing.
Please keep in mind that raising an animal, for example, a puppy, is a lot of responsibility. Beyond the training, pets require love and attention. If seeking a service animal, a great place to start is by talking to your doctor, therapist, or psychologist. And remember: Service animals are still pets that need lots of care.