Pets and Kids with Special Needs

by Jul 1, 2021Advocacy0 comments

Whatever scientist may say, Trish Shaeffer knows that the bond between pets and kids with special needs is real, healing, and unbreakable.

Pets and kids with special needs is a topic that is always near and dear to guest blogger Trish Schaeffer’s heart. Today she presents evidence about why pairing pets and kids with special needs is beneficial as a way to honor a pet who loved Alex, her son who lives with special needs.

 “Many professionals argue that animals are able to perceive people’s physical and developmental disabilities and are able to adapt to them. To date, there is no scientific evidence in support of this hypothesis” So states a quote by one scientist out there somewhere. 

I beg to differ. 

Pets help kids with disabilities. The keen senses of pets can detect seizures, dips in blood sugar, remove obstacles, and alert caregivers. They can even remind young owner to take medications. 

Pets are highly intuitive when it comes to sensing pain or illness and have instincts for giving assistance to their owners. They also give an astounding level of protection to their young charges. They are known for decreasing social anxiety and stress. 

Many pets do not have special training but they still help kids with disabilities. They seem to gain an understanding of the needs and differences of a disability or special need. They behave as if they know and understand their children. They purr, encourage play, and assist with mobility.

 I can bear witness to this. Our 2 cats and 2 dogs understood Alex’s differences and disability. Each one in their own way adapted and offered assistance without formal training. One cat would alert to seizures out of the blue.

Our pets would take turns laying beside Alex after surgeries and when he was ill, as if protecting and comforting. Our biggest dog allowed Alex to use his body to assist with sitting on the floor and standing. That dog’s actions helped teach Alex how to sit up unassisted over the years. Another dogs sensed his sadness and comforted him by allowing as many hugs as Alex wanted. 

It blows my mind, that with no formal training our pets understood and gave Alex a helping hand–or paw. To me that demonstrates the unshakable bond of love, acceptance, and understanding animals offer, regardless of someone’s disability. We as humans should take notes from the relationships of pets and kids with special needs.  

Author’s note: This article is hard to write even now as our bigger dog I have mentioned went over the rainbow bridge in June of 2021. I want to honor Toby’s undying service to Alex over the last 11 years. To honor his love and acceptance and truly becoming Alex’s best friend. May you run free Toby and no longer be in pain until we see you again. 

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By Trish Shaeffer

Trish Shaeffer is the mom of 3 active boys, 2 of whom have special needs. She’s a peer supporter for Parent to Parent and volunteers with the United Cerebral Palsy Network, Special Olympics, and the United Way. She’s also an equine volunteer at Leg Up Farm. She’s married to her best friend and biggest supporter, Chris Schaeffer.


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Meet Jolene

Jolene Philo is a published author, speaker, wife, and mother of a son with special needs.



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