Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Benefits of pet fish for autistic children

This week has been a tough one for my son and I will tell the story at a later date but what I will say is that his anxiety levels are extremely high and now we are seeking to try and reduce his stress levels and are looking at ways to do this.

He loves watching fish in aquariums so it has got me thinking about the benefits of aquariums for autistic children from my point of view in my experience with my own son's sensory needs.
Image source: boy and fish tank Shutterstock

Aquariums do indeed have a calming effect and can be a pleasant stress reducing activity for anyone but for a child with autism they can be a real help when the anxiety levels increase, to relax and watch pretty fish swimming around. My son loves the pet store and its glorious array of fish and when he was a baby we did actually have a fish tank. Sadly, we had to give them away and they now reside in a friend's pond. He gets so excited when he sees the fish tanks and they instantly boost his mood in a positive way.

Fish are a fairly easy pet and an autistic child can learn about caring and looking after them whilst it also serving as a great therapy session.  Cleaning the fish tank out and feeding them are routine activities that autistic children thrive on and provide a stimulating daily activity. For my son, the activity of cleaning the tank could be portrayed visually on a timeline so he could learn to do this task independently, boosting his self confidence.

Sensory wise an aquarium is a visual delight with bright colours, bubbles, swaying aquatic plants, lighting and the darting around or gentle swimming of the fish. The gentle bubbling noise of the tank can be soothing if there are no strong aversions to the sound and at times of over stimulation can help to diffuse a meltdown by having the aquarium as part of a calm area in the home.

Fish are a super learning tool, a hobby that can teach a child so much. From the animal husbandry skills to choosing new aquarium accessories with a parent, working together learning social skills, taking turns to feed the fish, sharing activities with friends or other family members. My son has also learnt and used his vocabulary from looking at the fish tanks in our local pet store - colours, big fish/little fish, one fish, two fish....

As part of my son's home education, we could bring the fish into our curriculum and a quick search on Pinterest provides plenty of ideas - fishy art, matching games, story telling and colour sorting.
Clockwise: Fish Sorting - Princess and the Tot //Rainbow Fish Story Literacy Activity - Teachers Pay Teachers // Bottle Cap Fish Art - I Heart Crafty Things // Fish Colour Matching Game


Amanda A said...

Fish tanks are great! I grew up with one and have wondered about getting one at home.
Will you be purchasing one then? :) xx

Happy Homebird said...

We still have one in the loft, you never know it might come back out! Last time we had one I bought some water snails for it and by the morning all that was left were shells! I never realised goldfish were so aggressive. xx

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