CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS – PETS ARE THE BEST THERAPY

 

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My friend Ananya’s daughter was having problems learning simple things like colours or shapes. She found it difficult to assimilate sentences even at the age of three years. She had been diagnosed as a child with special needs. The term special needs covers a broad spectrum of issues – some medical and some related with personal-societal behaviour.

HOW PETS HELP CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS

Over the years research has shown that keeping a pet is a wonderful therapy. Of course, this does not eliminate the need for appropriate treatment. But a pet definitely speeds up the process of recovery. The benefits of owning pets include:

Bonding – Pets invoke feelings of empathy and affection towards humans and other creatures. Children learn from and respond to a pet’s affection.

Stress Relief – Many special needs children feel frustrated that they are not able to do things just like others; which leads to stress and depression. The presence of a pet gives them a sense of purpose, commitment and directs their minds away from their own problems.

Social behaviour – Playing with pets encourages interaction with other beings, both animals and humans. It is far better than playing with inanimate toys.

Overall health – Having a pet helps a child with special needs to relax and enjoy various activities involving the care of the pet. This improves the overall physical and emotional health of the child.

Learning – Various studies have proved that owning a pet has helped a child to develop motor skills, grasping power, concentration and memory. As time passes the child is more receptive to instruction.

WHAT FACTORS SHOULD YOU CONSIDER BEFORE CHOOSING A PET?

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It is very important to select the right pet for your child. Both lifestyle issues as well as the actual medical condition of the child should be considered. Some of the factors that would affect your choice of a pet are:

  • Space: If you are living in an apartment then a small pet is more convenient, like a hamster or rabbit. An independent house with a garden is ideal environment for child-dog interaction.
  • Pet Allergies: Some children are allergic to cat or dog fur. In such a case a lovely aquarium with colourful fish might be a better choice.
  • Time: The initial phase of toilet-training a pet is a difficult one. Unlike cats, dogs need to be bathed at regular intervals. Do you have time to teach your child how to care for the pet?
  • Reciprocation: Pets like fish invoke a feeling of placidity and do not overtly react to human gestures. Dogs tend to be frisky and playful and very responsive. The choice would depend on whether your child is found of handling pets.
  • Medical condition: Some children show adverse reactions to loud noises and sudden movements. A barking dog or a shrieking bird could upset the child. In such a case a more docile and silent pet like a rabbit is more suitable.

More than anything else, children with special needs require their family’s love, patience and persistence. They sometimes find it difficult to cope with even simple day-to-day tasks. A lot of TLC and a suitable pet will surely help the child to develop motor skills, learning and social behaviour.

POKEMON GO – SOLUTIONS TO PARENTAL CONCERNS

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Since Pokémon Go was released by Nintendo the world seems to have gone crazy! The augmented reality game combines GPS mapping, mobile phone video and time-tracking features to combine real life players (that’s you) into a virtual game.

The game was supposed to encourage people to walk towards preset Pokestops. It maps your current whereabouts and displays roads that lead towards a Pokestop where you can capture Pokémon.

THE PLUS SIDE OF POKEMON GO

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It is definitely encouraging children, teenagers, adults and even senior citizens to walk more. The game has added a fun element into walking. Something that started out as a fad has turned into a revolution.

The don’t-trust-a-stranger syndrome has been replaced by solidarity. If one person lures a Pokémon into a particular zone, whoever is in that area can capture a Pokémon. You will notice total strangers cooperating with each other in pursuit of the game.

SOME PARENTAL CONCERNS

Cost of the game

The augmented reality game can be downloaded free of cost. But to actually play the game, you have to make in-app purchase of Pokecoins; and you have to buy these with real money.

Most families use the Family Sharing setting on iOS and Family Group setting on Android mobile devices so that all the family members can purchase Pokecoins. If many members of a family are playing Pokémon Go, they will use a lot of cellular data and the service provider’s bills will shoot up. Since the game is an addiction the bank balance could go haywire!

Children’s safety

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A game that encourages social interaction is praiseworthy. Forming a team is essential for some aspects of the game, like owning a gym. A gym can be used in combat and to help you move on to the next level. In the spirit of cooperation your kids will come across all kind of strangers – some friendly and intent on the game; others that could prove dangerous. With the number of tragic situations players have found themselves in, the game is an additional cause for concern for parents.

Also, Pokestops (where Pokémon are found) are based entirely on GPS or virtual locations. The creators of the game do not know the ground reality. The “lure” option of the game could be used by unscrupulous strangers. All those who are nearby will try to reach that particular spot to capture Pokémon. Several incidents of mugging, robbery and assault have been reported after people were lured by the game.

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What about safety in traffic? You are walking in the direction of the “lure” and are too busy looking at your phone. Do you really notice the speeding traffic around you? Contrarily, what happens when you stumble upon a Pokémon while driving? There have been numerous accidents because of distracted drivers.

SOLUTIONS TO POKEMON GO CONCERNS

To keep the children safe from oncoming traffic, just keep their mobiles on vibrator. As soon as a Pokémon is spotted, their phone will vibrate. They must be asked to move over to the pavement before checking the phone.

When you are not accompanying the kids, ask them to move around in groups. It is best that they don’t wander around alone. There is definitely safety in numbers. With Google+ on Android phones and Find My Friend on Apple devices, you can keep a watch over their movements and ensure they are in a safe locality.

A smartphone doesn’t come cheap. When your child is engrossed in walking to capture Pokémon the kid might trip and drop the phone. Why stop your kid from playing Pokémon Go? Just get a new protective cover for the mobile phone. Let them enjoy and be safe at the same time.