As you might know, Firefly is all about special needs family participation – helping to bring entire families together, regardless of medical conditions or disabilities, so that everybody can take part in special moments.

So we’re big fans of anything that can help make this happen.

The companionship and interaction with a properly-trained pet can make a real difference to a child’s development.

Research has shown that working with horses (misleadingly named ‘Hippotherapy’) has contributed to the cognitive and physical development of children with cerebral palsy and a range of neuromuscular conditions, improving motor skills and trunk control.

Canine Therapy is also widely acknowledged as helping people with a range of conditions – with various companies and charities bringing the pooches into schools, retirement homes and rehabilitation centres to visit the residents.

But having sessions with horses and specially-trained dogs can be expensive – these animals undergo hours of unique training.

So where that’s not an option there are alternatives.

Goldfish, privately-owned dogs, cats, small mammals, birds and reptiles may also contribute to helping children, but much less research has been done on this.

So, when looking for a pet, our advice includes:

Doing your homework

Research as much as you can about each type of pet you’re interested in and look into the best training methods to find the most suitable one for your child. It’s very easy to fall in love with a cute pup, but he may not necessarily be the ideal pet for your child. Try to choose with your head, not your heart.

Asking the experts

Ask vets, your doctors and your therapists for their advice on what type of pets might help. The medical team working with your child knows the condition and any associated risks that you may have overlooked, while a good vet can tell you everything you need to know about your potential pet.

Being ready

Having a pet isn’t something that should be taken lightly. It’s a big responsibility and many pets take more work than others. Fish like Goldfish and Betta are pretty low-maintenance and cheap, but they also have shorter lifespans than other pets which is something to also consider.

If your family already owns a pet, do you think it has a positive effect on your child? Share your stories by commenting below or emailing us [email protected]

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