How Pet Ownership Helps Children with Special Educational Needs


For pet owners, dogs or cats become important parts of their families. Children who have pets benefit in several ways as pets can be companions and teach them to take responsibility. Some children with special needs may have therapy pets to help them with their physical or emotional struggles.

Therapy Pets for Children

Many children who have special educational needs can benefit from having animal companions. An animal can have a calming influence on a child because it doesn’t put any additional pressures on him or her. It provides companionship and a friend to play with, and some children pet their dog or cat companions when they need to reduce their anxiety.

While some animals are specifically trained to be therapy or service animals, an ordinary pet can help your child. Pets do not criticise so they don’t put extra stress on a child and they are great listeners because they lay or sit and “talk” with their human companions. When a child is emotionally upset, the presence of his or her pet will often help him or her feel settled and calm him or her.

Therapy Pets in School

Some schools have pets in classrooms to help those who need extra help with learning. UK educators report that having animals in schools can help children to focus, think, and learn. This is especially helpful for children who have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) because studies have shown that attending schools with pets in them is as effective as giving children medications such as Ritalin to help with focus.

Another way pets in the classroom benefit children is by helping them learn empathy and responsibility. The children help feed, water, and care for the dogs or cats, which in turn develops empathy and nurturing skills used for all their lives. Other countries also have programmes that put pets and children together to develop educational skills.

Reading to Dogs

In the US, a programme improves the reading skills of school-aged children by having them read out loud to animals. Not only will their reading improve, but for many shy children or those with verbal communication problems such as stuttering, it builds their confidence in reading out loud to others. Many dogs benefit from the sustained attention by becoming socialised.

Pets at Home

Children who interact with animals in school can carry over their newfound knowledge to care for their dogs or cats at home. Along with caring for their physical needs, children can learn to treat animals with kindness and make sure they are safe. If they have cats, a Catio can allow a child to be outside with his or her cat companion in a safe environment as it is a screened-in area to protect cats.

By allowing a child to have a pet, he or she not only learns how to care for it but it can provide the companionship that children with special emotional, physical, and educational issues need. Their calming and faithful devotion can help improve skills, teach them to trust, and allow children to bond with their furry companions.

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