Introduction to Dave Small

Today we would like to bring attention to another organization in the community actively helping people with autism. We asked Dave Small, O.T. of Therapets to tell us some of the benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy for people with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, but first a little about Dave.

Dave has been working as an Occupational Therapist for the Special Education District of Lake County for 19 years. Before that, he trained dogs for Ludwig Gessner, a founding member of the US Army Canine Corps.  Dave has now combined these two passions in Therapets.

What is Animal Assisted Therapy?

Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is a unique therapy intervention. It allows the person to give and receive affection, as part of the regular treatment.  Research has shown the following benefits have been associated with human/animal interactions:

  • decreased anxiety
  • improved social skills
  • decreased agitation & aggression
  • improved motor skills
  • decreased tactile sensitivity
  • improved trust after traumatic events (e.g. PTSD)
  • decreased blood pressure and cholesterol
  • improved attention

The majority of research involving Animal Assisted Therapy and autism has been in the realm of dogs and horses. However, cats and guinea pigs have been shown to provide as much comfort and care. As usual with autism, individual sensitivities will determine whether an animal will be helpful, and what type of animal will bring the out their best.

If you have any heartwarming stories to share about pets and autism, join the conversation on our facebook or twitter page.

Rebecca J. Weaver is a Certified Autism Specialist at Independent with Autism, working to empower individuals with ASD. Need help creating your success strategies? Check out for more information.