Zoom Autism Magazine Issue 6 - Page 14

“I’ve always loved cats. If someone only knows one thing about me, it’s that I love cats. A few years ago, a lady in my church needed a home for a stray tabby cat. She knew nothing else about me, but she knew I love cats, and that’s how Lucy came to be my kitty. I can’t explain the connection between us. I can’t tell you how I know what Lucy is feeling instantly when I touch her or how her purr helps me stay calm. I can’t explain how I feel, but I think I can explain why. For once, it’s a relationship that I don’t have to think about at every moment and still fear I’ll mess it up. I don’t need words. I don’t need social skills. I just need love, and I’m pretty sure Lucy would tell you that’s exactly what she needs.” ~ Lydia Wayman tions. Therapy cats come in all sizes and breeds, but the most important characteristic is a suitable temperament. A good therapy cat must be friendly, patient, gentle, enjoy human contact and be content to be petted and handled, sometimes clumsily. In many situations cats can be more beneficial than even dogs. Cats are less likely to startle over a wheelchair or moving IV pole, and they certainly can be easier to carry and transport to different destinations. Not to mention, playing with kitty is a surefire way to improve your bad mood. It’s hard not to laugh while watching a feline friend chase a feather-on-a-wand toy or bat a toy mouse across the floor. MONKEYS Yup. You read that sub-header correctly. Monkeys are now being used not only as therapy animals but also as SERVICE ANIMALS. When you stop and think about it, it actually makes a lot of sense too. Capuchin monkeys have dexterous hands and amazing fine motor skills. This enables them to perform tasks such as opening doors, turning pages of books, pushing buttons of elevators, retrieving dropped objects and even repositioning limbs on a wheelchair. Monkeys also have hair like humans, which helps to alleviate problems with fur-related allergies that can occur with some dogs and cats. Capuchin monkeys have a long life span, sometimes living 30 to 40 years, which usually equates to more time with their 14 ZOOM Autism through Many Lenses Possible benefits of working with a therapy animal: lowered blood pressure reduced pain decreased anxiety reduced verbal and physical aggressiveness increased communication and socialization increased positive behavior increased attention span increased fine and gross motor coordination (walking or grooming the animal) improved core strength, body awareness and muscle memory (riding horses) an additional avenue for love, attention and happiness opportunities to laugh and simply enjoy the antics of the animal ZOOM Autism through Many Lenses 15