Cindy Ring, MSW, LSW
Expert Name:  Cindy Ring, MSW, LSW
Expert Title: MSW, LSW
Company Name:  Step By Step Inc.
Company URL: www.stepbystepacademy.org
Short Bio: Cindy is a clinical administrative associate with Step By Step Inc. Her responsibilities include designing research studies, protocols and evaluation tools, data collection and analysis and writing and editing grants and reports. Cindy is a member of the National Psychology Honor Society and a licensed social worker. She holds an MSW in Social Work Administration from Ohio State University, a BS in Psychology from Wright State University and is currently pursuing a PhD in Forensic Psychology from Walden University.

What Pets Are Good For My Child With Autism

So, your child has asked for a pet or you just want one! If this is you and your family, and you have a child with autism, here are some tips to make this go smoothly for all!

1. What kinds of pets will work?

• With a few exceptions, big dogs are usually much gentler than smaller dogs

• If your child is prone to pulling tails, hair, squeezing (this would be most young children), and other minor aggressive actions, avoid a young puppy, smaller pets like hamsters (they are nocturnal and get really grumpy when disturbed and may bite), young kittens, chinchillas (they lack rib cages and are easy to squeeze to death), and reptiles (children can get salmonella and other illnesses from touching these animals and putting their fingers in their mouths).

• Some good pets to try are: older puppies, young dogs, older kittens, guinea pigs (very gentle as a rule), rabbits (older- not young babies), pet rats (very gentle and intelligent), aquariums (a look at only pet, but very relaxing for some kids)

2. Go over some ground rules with your child(ren) before getting a pet

• Be gentle with the pet

• This is a great time to delegate chores for kids who are old enough! Even the younger kids can give water or food to a pet

• The pet needs to be taken care of every day

• The pet is part of the family

• Sometimes the pet needs his/her own space

• The pet is long term- it’s not fair to change your mind after committing to a pet

3. Why pets are great

• It’s relaxing to pet an animal/watch a fish tank

• Teaches children compassion for others in a concrete way

• Gives children a listening ear when they are mad, sad, or just not feeling happy

• Pets give unconditional love and acceptance

• Kids and pets make a great team!

• Pets are someone to play with when everyone else is busy!

• Gives the child something to take care of and be responsible for and creates a sense of pride

• Gives parents a way to model gentle behavior

• Teaches children to not fear animals

These are just a few reasons to allow your child to have a pet and how to handle that task. Before getting a pet, always research the types of pets your family is thinking about so you will be well prepared to bring your new family member home!