Monday with Maureen: Pets May Improve Social Skills


Your child finds a lost kitten. The inevitable question, “Mom, can we keep it?” This article may influence your answer!

Pets May Help Improve Social Skills Of Children With Autism

The Huffington Post By Carolyn Gregoire
Having a family pet can be beneficial for child development in a number of ways, including keeping kids active and promoting empathy, self-esteem and a sense of responsibility. But dogs may be particularly beneficial for kids with autism, acting as a “social lubricant” that helps them build assertiveness and confidence in their interactions with others, according to new research from the University of Missouri.

The researchers surveyed 70 families with autistic children between the ages of eight and 18, all of whom were patients at the MU Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders. Nearly 70 percent of the participating families had dogs, half had cats, and some owned other pets including fish, rodents, rabbits, reptiles and birds.

The study’s lead author Gretchen Carlisle, a research fellow at the University of Missouri, observed that autistic children are were likely to engage socially in social situations where pets were present. While previous research has focused specially on the ways that dogs benefit the development of autistic children, Carlisle found that pets of any type were beneficial for the childrens’ social skills.

“When I compared the social skills of children with autism who lived with dogs to those who did not, the children with dogs appeared to have greater social skills,” Carlisle said in a statement. “More significantly, however, the data revealed that children with any kind of pet in the home reported being more likely to engage in behaviors such as introducing themselves, asking for information or responding to other people’s questions. These kinds of social skills typically are difficult for kids with autism, but this study showed children’s assertiveness was greater if they lived with a pet.”

Carlisle observed the strongest attachments between the children and small dogs, although parents also reported strong attachments between their children and other pets, such as cats and rabbits.
“Dogs are good for some kids with autism but might not be the best option for every child,” Carlisle said. “Kids with autism are highly individual and unique, so some other animals may provide just as much benefit as dogs. Though parents may assume having dogs are best to help their children, my data show greater social skills for children with autism who live in homes with any type of pet.”

Carlisle’s research joins a body of work demonstrating the benefits of animal interaction among autistic children. A 2013 review of studies found that specially trained dogs, horses and other animals can facilitate increased social interaction and improved communication among autistic children, as well as decreased stress and problem behavior.

The findings were published in the journal of Autism & Development Disorders.

Boosting Motivation & Participation

choirThis week’s article showcases an activity you can do right now to boost your kiddo’s motivation & participation! It comes courtesy of one of our advisory board members, Chelsea Conkey.

Just Sing

by Chelsea Conkey, Music Therapist

 Picture this:

You and your family are all packed up for the Christmas parade. You have your hat and mittens, your hot cocoa in hand and your kids are anxiously waiting for the festivities to begin. To kick it all off, a huge brass band begins to play “Deck the Halls” and with a large crash of the cymbals, the song begins! A robust man standing on a beautifully decorated float leads the carol singing: “Deck the halls with boughs of holly” when suddenly the music and singing come to a complete stop!

Even while reading this, do you feel the urge to sing “Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la” to at least finish off the lyric line???

Music is unique in its’ ability to motivate and prompt participation. This is one of the aspects Music Therapists use in their work to engage children to work on goals at hand. Speech and language challenges are often areas of need that children with special needs are faced with. Through using songs of their choice (this year it’s been any song from Disney’s “Frozen”) children can work on oral motor skills, articulation, syntax and increase one’s vocabulary through singing exercises.

The Christmas parade illustration noted above could be translated to a therapeutic activity where “lining out” is used to motivate the child to verbally fill in the blank. For example: “Old Macdonald had a

” or “Let it go, let it

Although Music Therapists have the training and expertise to plan, document and adjust the therapy program as needed, you can also try some of the ideas below with your child as a parent or Special Ed worker. We are all musical beings and music is meant to be enjoyed! If you can have fun while working on a specific goal together, then it’s a win-win. So get out there and just SING!

S – Sing!

Singing is a fun and engaging way to work on speech and language development and you can pretty much do it anywhere!

I – Instruments!

Adding a few maracas, harmonicas or magic microphones engage children or teens of any age! Check out Therapy in a Bin’s “Melissa and Doug’s Band-in-a-box” under the “Music and Rhythm” section on their website. This is a great little starter kit to get your child tapping, clapping and singing along.

N – New material! Using the latest Disney hit or a children’s favorite lullaby will help keep the activity fresh and motivating. Unless it’s your absolute favorite song, you can only sing “Twinkle Twinkle” so many times until it loses its novelty.

G- Good enough! No matter how great (or not so great) your singing voice may be, children are more interested in your engagement and authenticity with them than whether or not you should be trying out for the next American Idol. So get out there, turn up the tunes and SING your little heart out!

Monday with Maureen: A Video That Will Change the Way You Parent

logoWe are still in awe over Elizabeth Sparling’s recent workshop at our warehouse! This video is already changing how we parent. Check it out…Part 1 of 3.

Snow Day, Fun Day! Great Indoor Activities for Kids.

Facebook-Posts-300x300We, as parents, work very hard to establish a routine our kids can count on. ..Quite frankly it helps my kids function at our house. So what happens when the weather wreaks havoc and school is cancelled?

Here are some indoor activities that help kiddos stay focused, calm & entertained.

Salt Dough Creations

Recipe: 1/2 cup of salt, 1/2 cup of water, 1 cup of flour. Add the 1/2 cup of salt and 1 cup of flour to a bowl stir in the water adding it slowly – you may not need all of the water. You want the dough to be dry – if it gets sticky add more flour. Knead the dough and then roll out and use as you want. Continue reading