Fish Keeping and Autism
As many as one in every forty-five children has some level of autism. Individuals who are on the autistic spectrum will often have difficulties with social skills, the perception of others and the perception of the world around them. Different people will require different levels of support depending on their individual needs. Raising an autistic child can have an impact on all aspects of family life. Interestingly, one area of support that research has shown to have an impact is family pets, or pets in general. That is to say, that research suggests that autistic children with pets tend to demonstrate superior social skills to those without.
Fish are particularly good pets for youngsters with autism. A koi pond provides a calm and peaceful area for children to retreat to. Both the fish and the watery environment have a calming effect. This type of environment is particularly beneficial when a child is in a highly emotional state as can be a frequent occurrence for those with autism. The pond is a feature that the whole family can share responsibility for and take pleasure in. It could also provide a peaceful haven for parents when they need to take 5 minutes.
Interacting with Koi
Interactions with fish focus kids' attention and tend to have an immediate calming effect. Koi will often recognise their keeper and interact with them. But they are not threatening in any way. Children love feeding koi and can become interested in their many colours and patterns. The koi's cheeky personalities and hypnotic swimming behaviour offer plenty to engage children.
For autistic children the death of a pet can be even more traumatic than it is for other kids. This is another reason why koi are an excellent choice of pet. Often living for 40 years and more, koi will always be there as the children grow.
Educational and Inspiring
The fish can also deliver educational benefits. Kids can learn all about the animals and how to care for them whilst picking up new vocabulary. They can learn about the different colours of the fish, what they eat, how to feed them and how to maintain water quality in the pond. The youngest kids can improve their mathematical skills by counting the fish. Kids always enjoy naming the fish and can then learn to recognise each individual. Youngsters will experience improved self-esteem through caring for animals.
By spending time with the family and other youngsters at the pond, the fish may even help to improve youngsters' communication skills. Those on the autistic spectrum often find it difficult to start conversations but will take pleasure in talking about their pets. Any fishpond will attract other wildlife which give parents and kids exciting things to discuss and learn about.
Pond or Aquarium?
If there is an autistic child or young adult in your family, a koi pond or aquarium might make an excellent investment and could have a wonderfully positive impact on the lives of the whole family as it's such a rewarding hobby. If a new pond is beyond your budget, a modest aquarium would be a good alternative. With animals to care for and to learn about, kids are often able to make connections and bonds that they might otherwise find difficult to develop.
- Header image - Koi by Evan McDougall on Unsplash