Social skills of autistic children could be improved, if they have pet to play with when they turn five. Researchers from Hospital Research Centre of Brest in France found that teenagers with developmental disorder were better capable to offer comfort as well as share things if they had a furry friend, in contrast those who never had a pet showed no improvements.
To confirm the hypothesis lead researcher Dr Marine Grandgeorge and colleagues performed two studies. In first study they examined twenty-four autistic children with an average age of eleven years who had attended daycare in France. About twelve children were given a dog, cat or rabbit after turning five while the rest had never had a pet.
Parents of all children had also completed a survey that commonly used to diagnose autism when the children were five they filled it in again at the time of the study. They also answered a questionnaire about their pets. The study findings showed that the children with pets were better capable to share food or toys with their parents or other children.
Besides, they also improved in offering comfort to other children who were in distress. But, no such improvements were found in a second study that compared eight children who had pets in the family from birth and eight who had no pets. The study findings have been published in journal PLOS ONE.
Dr Grandgeorge and colleagues stated children spent time playing and petting an animal if they got one when they were young, while those who had always had a pet in the family showed fewer interactions. Other studies have also shown that pets improve skills in children with typical development, including improving self-esteem and empathy.