Kahlon Family Services > Uncategorized > Animals & Autism: Part 1

Animals & Autism: Part 1

Temple Grandin: Animals Make Us Human

For centuries, animals and humans have shared a special bond. Often it depends on what kind of animal we are referring to – most people associate animal bonding only with domesticated pets. Temple Grandin changed the face of animal welfare through a deep affinity for cattle, attempting to understand their behavior on another level. You see, Temple Grandin is Autistic and can uniquely relate to the sensory sensitivities of animals, which are more closely linked to the human experience than we realize. Though most city dwelling San Franciscans have limited access to cattle, at Kahlon Family Services we have discovered the benefits of using animals in our sessions for their excellent company and therapeutic benefits. We will be bringing you Part 2 of this series soon – about a therapeutic pig! (Stay tuned)

You may have read a previous blog post about Danny (click here to read the heart-warming tale) the adventurous Dachshund and his work with children on the Autism Spectrum. Animals provide a way for people with Autism to experience a less complicated version of social interaction, while learning about the living world around them. A 2004 study showed that assistance dogs could help Autistic children learn about living beings, feelings and needs (USA Today.com). In 2010, a study from a journal called Psychoneuroendocrinology stated that service dogs actually have a physiological effect on children with Autism. The introduction of service dogs significantly reduced the stress levels of the child, and simultaneously reduced the amount of disruptive behavioral episodes.

We have seen these effects first-hand in our sessions with Danny, and our other pal, Jake. Our dogs have a way of making children with social differences feel welcome. We have seen the dogs act in embarrassing ways, and the kids deal with them in love. For example, one day Jake ate some unidentified old dog poop as one of our young (socially different) clients was walking him down the street. At first, everybody freaked out because we all know that dogs shouldn’t do that. Then, a teachable moment was upon us. Do we still love Jake when he acts like that? Will we still be Jake’s friend? Should we just let Jake eat poop if he wants to? Or should we let him know it’s not a great choice and help him to make better choices? That day, the young boy could see why people were “always telling him what to do”. He could see for the first time that when people were telling him how to act, it was out of love rather than bossiness. The boy was also quick to help Jake out the embarrassing situation, and could appreciate that others help him act appropriately when he does things out of the social ordinary.

At Kahlon Family Services, we do not use well-mannered service dogs. We use family pets – humble dogs rescued from the pound. We work with dogs who have been through a lot, and their back stories really engage with the lives of kids with behavioral problems. These dogs teach empathy, forgiveness, unconditional love, patience and endurance. The dogs calm us down, and bring something extra to the emotional environment in our sessions. If you think that your child could benefit from sessions with a behavior specialist and a dog, please contact us so that we can match you with the perfect fit. You can email info@kahlonfamilyservices.com or visit our website www.kahlonfamilyservices.com for more details.

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