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My Sweet Valentine – Poochie! How a Pet Can Help a Special Needs Child

By February 3, 2020Pet Care

Valentine’s Day is approaching, and if you have a special needs child who has a beloved pet, make it a special day by encouraging your child to send their sweetheart pet a valentine card (perhaps a homemade one) along with a gift. Interacting with a pet can work wonders, and the pet doesn’t even have to be a dog or a cat. For example, one study found that being around guinea pigs brought about improved social behaviors in children with autism. 

Therapeutic Pets

If there is a special needs child in the family, getting a pet for therapeutic reasons should be considered. There are advantages and disadvantages to every kind of pet, but any pet has the potential to enrich the life of your child. Here is a list of some pets to help you make the right choice.


If you have a child with profound learning disabilities, they will have difficulties making friends with other children. Such a child may find a real friendship by interacting with a dog. If your child is bipolar, a dog can really help them get through the day. A dog is patient and entertaining, can calm through cuddling, and can get your child out of the house for walks. 

  • An assistant dog provides freedom and independence. The dog should wear a jacket informing people about your child’s disability. This can also serve as an ice-breaker by encouraging people to stop and chat.

  • If you have a child with ADHD, read Kathy Hoopmann’s book All Dogs have ADHD.


A cat can serve to provide important life lessons, sensory guidance, and companionship. Watch your child grow and develop by interacting with a cat.  If your child has difficulty communicating with and reading the facial expressions of humans, understanding a cat’s non-verbal modes of communication (such as purring) can be educational and relaxing. 

  • Try cat stickers – If you want your cat-loving child to take an interest in something, decorate it with a cat sticker – eating utensils, school books, pens, orthotic leg braces, etc. Also, offer stickers as rewards for jobs well done.

  • Cats as educational animals – Cats are all over the internet. They provide not only instant entertainment but also instant education. For instance, Quaky Cat was developed after the Christchurch, New Zealand earthquakes to help children cope with trauma.

  • If you have a child with Asperger Syndrome, read Kathy Hoopmann’s book All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome


A rabbit is the perfect furry animal to take to school for show and tell. If your child doesn’t make friends easily, taking a rabbit to school will make them more popular with their classmates and provide welcome social interaction and communication.


If you have a child with a sensory processing disorder, a tank full of colorful fish peacefully swimming around in their bedroom can have a wonderful calming effect. Your child will be less stressed and sleep better because of the white noise provided by the aquarium.


Having a pet horse may not be practical, but horse riding has excellent therapeutic benefits. It helps to improve posture, balance, muscle tone, coordination, motor development, and confidence. Look for a therapeutic riding center in your area.

Final Thoughts

It’s important to acknowledge that the ultimate responsibility for looking after a pet lies with the adults in the family. If you live in the vicinity of Columbia, SC, and you have a pet emergency, your pet will receive the very best treatment at CVETS. And, CVETS would like to wish you and your special pet a Happy Valentine’s Day.