Rescued animals to improve lives of children with autism

Constant evaluation will be conducted so families can see measurable behavioural improvement in their children.

The first annual Pets for People campaign has been launched.

Its aim is to help inspire and encourage families all over the globe to learn about the benefits pets can have on people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The campaign was launched by Mars Africa, Autism South Africa and Woodrock Animal Rescue Shelter.

Autism affects an estimated 70 million people around the globe. The anxiety, depression and attention issues can be a real struggle for both those affected and their families. Appropriate therapy can help those affected with autism better cope with daily life.

Picture: iStock

A study at the University of Lincoln in the UK showed children with autism experience fewer meltdowns and their parents’ stress levels are significantly lowered with a pet.

Corporate affairs director for Mars Africa Tumi Masekela said: “Pets make a difference to a child’s confidence levels. They help reduce anxiety, improve communication and help families come together and participate in more activities.”

The programme will educate families about the study and give children with autism an opportunity to experience the unconditional love of a pet through guided therapy sessions and other group activities.

Constant evaluation will be conducted so families can see measurable behavioural improvement in their children.

Picture: iStock

“We are extremely excited about this project as we have seen the benefits, not only for children with autism, but their entire families from interactions and love from family pets, whether support dogs or just the family “fur baby”.

National director of Autism South Africa Sandy Klopper said: “We are delighted to be working with Mars and Woodrock on this project especially during our April Autism Awareness Month.”

Founder and managing director of Woodrock Animal Rescue Stella Meldau said: “Pets provide unconditional, non-judgemental love. Pet ownership offers so many benefits. A pet can decrease depression, stress and anxiety, they can lower blood pressure, improve immunity and even decrease risk of heart attack and stroke.

“We hope our furry friends at Woodrock offer much needed relief from everyday struggles.”