The Love of Animals and Asperger’s Syndrome

My daughter (now 21) has always been obsessed with animals and has never known a time in her life when she hasn’t had pets.  She, together with her two brothers, grew up with two Labrador dogs, an array of moggies, pet rats and is now the proud owner of a corn-snake called Charlie and a hamster called Eric.  The great benefits of pet ownership for all children are well-known, but these benefits became even more significant for our daughter when she was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of 18.

Asperger’s Syndrome is an autistic spectrum disorder (‘ASD’), a ‘hidden disability’, which makes it harder for my daughter to make sense of her world, process information and interact and communicate with others, even though she is an articulate and intelligent young woman. This creates a huge amount of pressure for her when trying to fit in with her peers and relate to them, causing her to experience a high level of social anxiety and, in turn, emotional exhaustion.

Willow in a Basket (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Willow in a Basket
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Of course, we didn’t know any of this when she was growing up, but even then we noticed how she would turn to Willow, our gorgeous, saggy old ‘Bagpuss’ of a cat, scooping her up in her arms as she happily let my daughter cry and rub her face into her furry tummy when she was having one of her childhood ‘melt downs’.

I am not so sure that Willow would have allowed any of us to have done the same!

Being able to ‘talk’ to her pets was/is very therapeutic and calming for my daughter, helping her a great deal with her particular kind of stress. As she explains it, she relates better to her pets than to other people because she can sense their needs and understand them and she doesn’t feel the pressure or stress of human relationships.

The love she has for her pets, particularly her cats, and the love she receives back from them has been a steadying force of peace and security in her sometimes chaotic ‘Aspie’ way of life. They provide comfort, love and interaction without the expectation for her to say and do the right things. Nothing is expected of her, there is no pressure to ‘fit in’, she isn’t being judged, she can be herself, and relate to them in love, by cuddling and showing emotion, where otherwise this can be difficult for Aspies.

Professor Tony Attwood, a psychologist and one of the world’s leading experts on ASD has written extensively about Asperger’s Syndrome. In his forward for Liane Holliday Willey’s book ‘Safety Skills for Asperger Women: How to save a Pefectly Good Female Life’, he describes the many challenges specific to girls and women with Asperger’s, in particular their need to ‘escape’ and makes this telling observation:

Another escape is into the exciting world of nature, having an intuitive understanding of animals, not people. Animals become loyal friends, eager to see and be with you, with her feeling safe from being teased or rejected and appreciated by her animal friends.”

Young Chick! (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Two Young Chicks!
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

There seems to be a unique chemistry between people on the autistic spectrum and animals.  Certainly, I witnessed this many times with my daughter. We raised chickens once and we were amazed at how she would let day old chicks sit on her shoulder as she hand-fed them, then watch as they would fall asleep right there nestled up to her neck, feeling perfectly safe.

This chemistry, together with the  calming effect that a dog brings to an autistic child when anxious or distressed, has been observed by PAWS (Parents Autism Workshops and Support), an innovative charity set up by Dogs for the Disabled and based in Banbury, Oxfordshire.  PAWS has developed the training of assistance dogs to work effectively with both children with autism and their parents and carers. They do also recognise that a well-trained pet dog can be just as beneficial.

The well-known American Temple Grandin is an autistic woman who was incorrectly diagnosed as brain-damaged and developmentally disabled as a very young child and as such, faced many difficult challenges growing up.  However, she went on to become a  professor at Colorado State University and is now a leading animal behaviour expert and consultant to the livestock industry (source credit: Wikipedia).

As a truly inspirational autistic activist and best-selling author, she tells of her love for horses and how a completely unexpected turning point in her life changed everything for her; while looking after horses at her sister-in-law’s ranch, she began to thrive.  She then discovered that she had a special bond with the cattle also at the ranch, in whose company she felt more peaceful than with people.*

The extremely important value of animals and pets in the lives of those on the autistic spectrum cannot be denied.  Finally, and to end on a light-hearted note, in talking to my daughter as research for the purposes of this article, she came up with several similarities between her ‘Aspieness’ and our cats, which I share here:

1.  Cats are nocturnal.  So is my daughter.

2. Cats like to be touched but only on their terms, otherwise don’t you dare. Just like my daughter.

3.  Cats are very picky about their food.  Hmmmmm……just like my daughter.

4.  Cats have major sensory issues – too loud, too hot, too cold, too many people.  Same with my daughter.

5.  Cats detest changes to their routine, it actually makes them ill and retreat.  My daughter has to do things her way and in her time. She can retreat into her room, in the dark, for days on end.

My 'Little Asp' with our moggie Eddie 2009 (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

My ‘Little Asp’ with our moggie Eddie 2009
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

6.  Cats will only come to you if they trust you and feel safe with you, then they will show their cuddly, purry love in the most wonderful way. Otherwise it’s the cold shoulder.

My daughter is honest to the point of bluntness which can seem rude to others but this is a common Asperger trait.  There is no side to her and she shows her love in her own wonderful way.

So then, my daughter continues to be obsessed with animals and in her ideal Aspie world she thinks it would be wonderful if she could also have, in no particular order:

A Rottweiler, a racoon, a crow and a Peach-Faced Lovebird.

Safe to say she will have a long wait but her cats are always close to hand should she need a lovely soft, purry cuddle.

(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Related links for further information:

Safety Skills for Asperger Women: How to Save a Perfectly Good Female Life          -Liane Holliday Willey, Jessica Kingsley Publications, £11.69 Amazon

National Autistic Society’s website: http://www.autism.org.uk

*MailOnline: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-1368868/Temple-Grandin-Autistic-woman-leading-animal-behaviour-expert.html

About Sherri Matthews

Sherri has been writing full time since 2011. Currently working on her memoir, 'Stranger in a White Dress', she has been published in a variety of national magazines, websites and three anthologies. Sherri raised her three, now adult children, in California for twenty years and today, lives in England’s West Country with her hubby, Aspie youngest, two cats, a grumpy bunny and a family of Chinese Button Quails. She keeps out of mischief blogging, gardening, walking by the sea and snapping endless photographs. Her garden robin muse vists regularly.
This entry was posted in Asperger's Syndrome, CATalogue, Family Life and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

103 Responses to The Love of Animals and Asperger’s Syndrome

  1. Heyjude says:

    I do hope she keeps Charlie away from Eric 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sherri says:

      Ha! Yes, all is safe and calm believe it or not but she did have to work on me for a very long time before she got a snake (I can’t stand them 😦 ) Poor Eric though, 2 cats and a snake…doesn’t seem to bother him so long as he is safely tucked up in hibernation mode in his cage 🙂

      Like

  2. Lesley Dawson says:

    I love your daughter’s hair, Sherri! That shade of red goes lovely with the black. I agree with everything you say about animals. A relationship with them is based on unconditional love and trust …. no strings, it’s all about the love!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sherri says:

      Yes, that’s the thing isn’t it with our beloved pets, no strings, just the love! Thanks Lesley, and ah yes, I’ll tell you a little story about my daughter’s hair (are you sitting comfortably?!) I could probably do several blog posts about this subject alone!
      She was 16 in this photo and as you can see her main colour is black, then she decided that she wanted the red at the front. I actually did that for her by bleaching the front, which turned it orange and then she added a reddish dye. Voila! I do love this photo of her.
      Still at school, her friends thought it was very cool and one got me into trouble with her mum because she said she wanted me to do the same to her hair!
      My daughter has had every colour under the sun…blue, black, pink, orange, blonde, brown, red, and back to black again…you name it.
      Thankfully she promised me never to go black again as it is a nightmare to get out. She is now a platinum blonde! It’s all part of her ‘artiness’ and creativity. All I can say is it’s a darn good job that she has such lovely, long thick hair 🙂
      It was very much a case of ‘picking my battles’ with my daughter, and this was one I gave up on long ago!
      Thank goodness I won the piercings and tatooes battle, but that’s another story ;-(

      Like

  3. jennypellett says:

    This is really interesting Sherri – we are always looking for ways to help our students when they have a melt down – perhaps I should suggest we have a departmental cat! My boss went to one of Temple Grandin’s talks last year as part of her master’s course and found her awe-inspiring.
    Like HeyJude, I was fearful regarding Eric’s proximity to Charlie but glad to know they are living in harmony 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sherri says:

      Thanks Jenny! That’s so interesting about your boss going to see Temple Grandin. Did she go to the States for that? Did you know that there is a film about her, with Clare Danes playing her? I haven’t watched it yet, but I heard it is excellent. My American friend in California sends me links on Facebook about her from time to time.
      As for a departmental cat, well why not? So long as they would be happy to have their tummys cried into 🙂
      I watched a very interesting programme some weeks ago about prisoners on death row in a prison in Ohio (I think) and as part of a way to help ease the stress of the inmates, they were allowed to keep cats, one for each, and it was quite moving (and surreal) hearing these hardened inmates (who had commited the most henious crimes) going all soppy over these cats who were their best friends!
      Again, as for Eric and Charlie…yes, Eric is quite safe and Charlie is also quite safe in his vivarium and can’t escape. I have to say in Charlie’s defence that he is a small snake and completely safe. Now quite what our menagerie would do with the introduction of a racoon or a crow in the mix, well, something tells me that this wouldn’t work very well… 🙂

      Like

  4. mvschulze says:

    Thanks for this wonderfully descriptive post. M

    Liked by 1 person

  5. ljbradburn says:

    Another great post Sherri! Your daughter is lucky to have such a lovely mum who respects and understands her as well as lots of cuddley pets 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Good post, Sherri. Thanks for including the Aspergers link; I learned a lot. My 18 year old nephew is severely Autistic so I know a lot about that end of the spectrum, but was surprised by how little I knew about the other end where your daughter is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sherri says:

      Hi Bill, how are you? I’m so glad to know that this post gave you some good information. It is a small world, not only are our youngest daughter’s both recently turned 21 but I have a cousin who has a 19 year old son who is severely Autistic. Just like you, that is all I knew of Autism and although I had heard about Asperger’s Syndrome I knew very little about it, nothing about the ‘spectrum’.
      Since my daughter was diagnosed I’ve made it my mission to try and learn as much about as it as I can, but of course what I write about mostly is from personal experience!
      Sharing what I know, limited thought it is, helps me to try and explain in better ways to others just what it means to have Asperger’s (from my ‘mamma bear’s’ perspective, you understand!) and for their families and loved ones too. My plan is to write more about this subject as I go on with my blog and share what I learn along the way 🙂 Thanks for sharing Bill.

      Like

  7. Pingback: Confessions of an Aspie: Part Deux | Lissa Getting Hammered

  8. lostinthelabyrinthh says:

    Ahh great post Sherri! I had a black lab growing up. He passed away 4 years ago and I still miss him. 😦 I was in the vets the other day and had a few tears, as he had an operation and had to stay there for a week 😦 I just remember we had to go and see him in the kennels because he was so depressed 😦

    Me and my dad both have Aspergers and both love animals. When Rostom (our old black lab) died we had to get another dog pretty much straight away as we couldn’t cope without. I now have two dogs, Chi & Marley.

    I talk to them like they’re human! I treat them like they’re humans! They are easier to communicate with definitely. They probably understand us better than any human could! They are amazing!

    Loved this post! Nice pic too 😀

    xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sherri says:

      Ahh, thanks Maria, I’m so glad that you enjoyed this post, I know you must have really related to it! 🙂 I’m so glad that your two dogs bring you so much joy but so sorry about poor Rostom 😉 Never forgotten…xx

      Like

  9. quirkybooks says:

    I have a friend at work who has an autistic son. I have posted this to my personal Facebook page as she is connected to me on there.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: Tony Attwood – The Pattern of Abilities and Development for Girls with Asperger’s Syndrdome | seventhvoice

  11. That was very informative! And…I love your daughter’s hair there. I read she now has it platinum blonde…cool!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sherri says:

      Thanks for reading, glad you found it informative. Ah yes, my daugther’s hair – I should do a blog post just about that! Great idea! Have a lovely weekend 🙂

      Like

  12. Tina says:

    I find it really touching how accepting you speak of your daughter. I wish my mother was the same. To her, I am a lazy freak who never tries. She says Asperger’s is an excuse to act awkward. It hurts me a lot, but what can I do?

    Anyway, stay lovely, please!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sherri says:

      Hello lovely Tina and oh how my heart cried when I read your comment here. I understand just what you feel about this. I have come across this attitude towards my daughter, and when she was younger I also struggled, not understanding when she could be so ‘awkward’ and seeming to be so unmotivated and yes, lazy.

      However, I learnt early on that speaking to her in a confrontational way and also letting my frustration get the better of me did far more harm. I told her that I wanted to understand and she tried to explain but of course she really couldn’t so we both struggled to understand what was going on. She wasn’t diagnosed with Asperger’s until she was 18.

      I just knew early on that I needed to approach her and talk to her differently than to my boys because of the way she reacted so badly to her surroundings and to experiences – for instance, how she seemed to hate parties and sleepovers.

      I am so sorry for the sadness and hurt that you feel over the way your mother seems not to understand about Asperger’s and how this afffects you in daily life. I wonder if she has ever tried to read anything about it?

      Please keep in touch and/or feel free to email me if you have any other questions about anything. I don’t know what else to say or do other than this and to send you a great big ‘cyber’ hug… 🙂

      Like

  13. booksonaspergersyndrome says:

    Animals are great for children on the spectrum and might even help teach social skills.
    i’m also on the spectrum and had always been fascinated by animals. animals seem to like me better than they do most people, and many times dogs who wont let strangers pet them, let me. even the feral cats in the neighborhood (we have a zillion of those) let me near them, although suspicious and unfriendly to strangers by nature.
    when i save some money, i’d like to get a few feral cats into my house and make them my pets. the cats i had, long dead now, were very attached to me, and one of them used to cry and scream if i as much as took a shower and closed the door. he’d force the door open and ran away when he saw the running water. he’d sit on my lap half a day with his head on my heart, gurgling like a human baby.
    no, i dont have friends, never did, but i can get by as long as i have a pet.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Sherri says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with the impact that animals have on you and your life. My daughter would certainly relate to all you say here. I do believe that having pets for people on the spectrum helps greatly in so many ways, social skills being one of them. My daughter has the same effect on animals as you do and it never ceases to amaze me.

    It’s funny as one of our cats loves water and my daughter used to take baths with her! Our other cat, however, is just like yours, the one who would ran away from the water! How beautiful that he would sit on your lap for so long like that, what an incredible comfort to you.

    I hope that you will soon have some new pets to share your life with, they will certainly be very lucky to have you as their owner that’s for sure 🙂

    Like

  15. restlessjo says:

    This is a beautiful piece, Sherri. I read it to get some little insight into Aspergers and some of the traits are not so very different from my own daughter. We all have our demons, don’t we? Love the shot of her with the flash of red in her hair (is that recent?) and the chicks nestling on her neck is so adorable. They bring joy with them, as well as pain, don’t they?
    Much love to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sherri says:

      Ahh Jo, does your daughter have Asperger’s too? I didn’t realise. I hope you found this article helpful and gave you some measure of the insight that you were looking for.
      Pain and joy…yes, so much…
      She was 16 in this photo and she is 21 now. She has had every colour going but is now blonde. I helped her get this colour by bleaching out some of the black (which took ages to get out!) and then she put a red toner on it and hey presto! She is very creative in this way but I’m so glad that my shower is no longer getting stained with green, blue and red hair dye… !
      Much love to you too Jo.

      Like

  16. cardamone5 says:

    Visiting from Holistic Wayfarer’s site where you liked a post on race featuring me. Thanks.

    I admire your courage and that of your daughter. You articulate her challenges so well, asking them easy for an outsider to understand. I love the pictures, and the likenesses to your cat. I am a follower.

    Best regards,
    Elizabeth

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sherri says:

      Hello Elizabeth! Thank you so much for taking the time to visit my blog and read this post and also I’m most grateful for the follow. I did enjoy your post over at HW very much and found your background to be of great interest.

      I would also like to thank you for your very kind words and find it very encouraging to know that I can somehow try to explain aspects of what it is like to have Asperger’s Syndrome for those who may not quite understand. I’m still learning myself, believe me!

      I’m looking forward to future visits and also to coming over to your blog. It’s lovely to meet you 🙂 – Sherri

      Like

  17. Deborah says:

    I am also an animal aficionado and an Aspie! Cats are a favorite for me because they share my sensitivities. I like dogs, but some of them bother my sensory issues because they are too loud, smelly, slobbery, jumpy, and hyperactive. But either way, I feel that these animals are easier for me to communicate with than people. Since my dad is a vet, I grew up with animals and am a native speaker of their language. Like them, I don’t think in words. So just touch and sight makes the relationship complete:)

    Another reason cats are good for me is that the way they feel to my hands is utterly divine! Touching them is a form of stimming that is socially acceptable and wonderful for all. When I put my ear to the cat’s warm, furry body and hear the purr, I feel so incredibly soothed! There is nothing like it!

    Cats are such beautiful, amazing creatures! And I love them so much!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sherri says:

      Hello Deborah,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to share your ‘animal and Aspie’ story here!

      It’s lovely to read how you feel when you are close to your cats and their ‘warm, furry bodies’, listening to their purrs and how soothing that is for you. That is very interesting too about the stimming. I can see why petting a cat certainly is wonderful for all 🙂

      That’s great that your dad is a vet, how lovely for you to have had the experiences you’ve had with all animals. My daughter talked of being a vet once but her anxiety took over and she is not able to even think about college or anything like that at the moment.

      To be able to communicate with animals the way you do is a gift in my mind and the way you describe the connection you have with cats reminds me so much of my daughter’s experiences.

      Cats are indeed beautiful and amazing and I’m so happy to know that they bring you so much joy and happiness! What a great blessing this is indeed and I wish for you the very best in life – with your cats by your side always 🙂 – Sherri

      Like

  18. Nikki says:

    Hi Sherri, Really interesting blog! You and Claire both look lovely. Have you come across the book, All Cat have Asperger syndrome by Kathy Hoopman? It’s just a little book but I think you and Claire would enjoy it.

    One day you’ll have to meet my friend Ness and her 21 year old son. They are particularly lovely and I think you’d find a lot of common ground together. Take care! Nikkixxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sherri says:

      Hi Nikki, lovely to see you here and many thanks for your comment. I’m glad you found this post so interesting. I heard about the book from several other readers after I posted this but I haven’t read it yet. although I was fascinated to find about it!
      Yes, your friends sound lovely and maybe we will meet them one day.
      Hope you’ll drop by again…take care…
      Love Sherri xxx

      Like

  19. Sherri, I wanted to stop by and say thank you for following my blog. I see you have read several of my posts and it’s greatly appreciated. I had promised to stop by and read more of yours. That will be possible as soon as I’m done moving. It’s a nightmarish process and I’ll be glad to be settled. I know a number of people with A.S. My contractor who will be working on my new house has it, so does my downstairs neighbor, his mother and an ex-daughter-in-law to name a few. Each one different in the spectrum. I was introduced to Temple Grandin’s movie by my son who worked on the editing of it, Have followed her work for many years now. I know all spectrum’s of autism can be hard on families, but I honestly think this is natures way of creating kinder, gentler people. They are here for a purpose and sometimes just to teach us many, many lessons. Animals have a sixth and seventh sense. I’ve seen it in so many. It’s time we get better acquainted with it. I’ll keep trying to catch up here as I see you have very important work to do. Thank you again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sherri says:

      Dear Marlene, all I can do is to apologise that I haven’t replied to your lovely reply before now but I have only just found it! I honestly don’t understand and I am mortified to have left it so late but all I can think is that this might have come through when I was having a lot of commenting problems. Still, thank goodness I saw this so that now I can reply
      I do hope that your move is going/went well. Maybe by now you are moved in? As with you, I’ve moved so many times and I do understand what you are going through. I do hope that you will settle in very soon and then you can relax and put the move behind you. How wonderful that will be 🙂
      Yes, those on the spectrum are affected differently and my daughter has higher functioning autism but it is her severe anxiety problems which hinder her. It is not an easy time in many ways but she is receiving proper help and support at long last and I have every confidence that she will be able to live a fulfilled and successful life despite her challenges. I agree with you about us needing to better understand the needs of those with ASD.
      It sounds as if you know many people with it and also how fascinating that your son worked on Temple Grandin’s book!
      Bless you and thank you so very much for taking the time out of your incredibly busy (and stressful!) time to come over here and leave your insightful and caring thoughts. I look forward to keeping in touch and sharing our blogging journey, but please take your time. I’ll be here when you are able to start blogging again!
      It’s so lovely to meet you Marlene. Hugs to you… Sherri 🙂

      Like

      • Oh, Sherri, Please don’t worry with apologies. Life is in session and it sets it’s own course. I have not done a post since the last. My son worked on Temple Grandin’s movie, not her book. He is in post production which is how I learned of her. Have always been interested in Autism. Probably since it became a real diagnosis. My contractor has ASD and it’s an interesting working arrangement. He wants to be alone when he works. He has his own rhythm. I went back to the apartment to pack and left him to work. He is also a bit OCD. My son said you usually can’t get a contractor to show up to work. This one we can’t get to go home. Everything must be just so and move in date is Thurs. My daughter said to trust that all is going according to schedule. He’s a good man and works hard. I will be busy through the middle of July. Then I can come up for air…I hope. Everything in it’s right time. It was lovely to hear from you and I look forward to reading more. Soon. 🙂

        Like

        • Sherri says:

          Ooops…sorry about that! Sounds like your son has a very interesting job!
          Yes, OCD is often something that goes hand in hand with ASD, as well as other things like severe anxiety such as my daughter suffers. What a blessing for your contractor to have a job. So many on the spectrum would love to work but can’t cope in the ordinary working environment and the support just isn’t out there, at least not here in the UK, but it is improving, very slightly. I can see why he wants to work alone, that would be perfect for him, and I’m sure he will do a wonderful job. My daughter hasn’t worked or been able to do anything since her diagnosis 3 years ago. We will not give up though, I know that she will find her way one day at a time…
          I wish you the very best for your move and hope that all goes well and as smoothly as possible. I’m sure your daughter is right about trusting that all will be well 🙂
          Take care Marlene and I look forward to catching up with you when the dust has settled, literally 😉

          Like

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  21. I was quite touched by your writing about your daughter and animals. My daughter too has Asperger’s (as do I) and her love of animals is amazing to watch. I referenced your article in a post I did recently on helping wild animals. You can read it here: http://bit.ly/1iSXSqI Please keep the great articles coming!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sherri says:

      Hi Michael, thank you so much for coming by and for your lovely comment! I’m so glad that you enjoyed this post and how kind of you to link back to it in your delightful post. I’ve left a comment over there and I look forward to reading more of your lovely blog. I will do my best to keep the articles coming! Take care, you and your beautiful daughter, lovely to meet you. Sherri 🙂

      Like

  22. Dear Sherri, I’m so glad we connected through Diana’s work at A Holistic Journey! Your blog is beautifully written and heartfelt, and that makes the important and thought-provoking content all the more compelling. As I’ve probably said to you already, and certainly often do to others, I’ve come to believe that we all exist as points of confluence in a highly complex matrix of all sorts of physical, social, psychological, environmental, and other characteristics and influences, and those points move throughout our lives as our health and experiences shift. I almost wonder if there will come a time when we can develop new language to understand things like autism and anxiety and dyslexia, recognizing that we need ways to communicate about them but that perhaps every person has his or her unique connection to each, with infinite shadings in between the possible extremes. The idea is daunting to me, but at the same time, encouraging.

    Regardless of whether this is a strictly wishful notion or of any actual use, it comforts and encourages me to know of how others cope with different *and* similar challenges to my own. Most of all, it’s a blessing to recognize that there are people like you and your daughter who work to make sense of the world in compassionate and thoughtful and, yes, daring ways. We really are all in this together!

    Love,
    Kathryn

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sherri says:

      Dear Kathryn, how lovely of you to take the time to read this post and leave such an indepth, and thoughtfully considered message, I really appreciate it so much. I’m thrilled that we met through our sharing on Diana’s blog, what an amazingly powerful series she headed up!
      I have learnt so much about ASD since my daughter’s diagnosis, and particularly the unique way it affects females. I hope to write more about this as I explore this in more depth. Communication and the way we interact with one another, despite the differences and challenges, is so vital.
      Unfortunately, my daughter was not given the proper support when she was first diagnosed and a great deal of misunderstanding between her and her support workers left a huge amount of damage, from which she is only just now recovering. I know that there are some who wonder why my daughter can’t work or leave the house without me or have a social life outside the confines of her immediate family and her online friends, because nobody can tell from looking at her or from talking to her (she is articulate, intelligent and savvy) that there is anything ‘wrong’. They don’t see the extreme effort she has to put into every single thing she does outside her own little bubble and how exhausting, both physically and mentally it becomes for her, for days sometime afterwards. Shutdowns have been part of her life when she was very unwell a year ago where she could barely leave her room. Then meltdowns when it all gets too much of which she also had a few. Thank goodness, she has been much better for a while now. I think knowing that she has professionals who really seem to ‘get’ her helps tremendously and is giving her back her confidence which she lost so badly. Just for her to come out with me for short walks (in quiet places I have to vet first!!) is a huge step forward (pun intended!).
      Oh Kathryn, I am so glad that you gained a small measure of comfort and encouragement from reading this. It does help so much doesn’t it when we know we are not alone, that we are indeed in this together and how wonderful that is. Thank you so much for your lovely message of encouragement to me and my daughter, it means a great deal.
      Bless you dear one, sending you much love and a great big hug – Sherri 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  23. David Newton says:

    Hi I have aspbergers and ocd is it wrong to have two small dogs

    Liked by 1 person

  24. David Newton says:

    Me again my family and I talked about not getting second one but deep down I want to they calm me down seems like no one understand me

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    • Sherri says:

      I wish I could give you answers David. I only know as a mum with an aspie daughter that it is very frustrating when you feel that no one in your family understands you. Has anyone in your family read this post? If so, perhaps they could go to the links I’ve provided so that they could read more and better understand how important having a pet is and how it helps you and calms you. Maybe they are worried that two dogs would be too much to look after, too much work and responsibility, not to mention cost? I don’t know, obviously I’m only guessing here as I don’t know your family situation. I do hope that things work out for you and you are all able to keep talking to one another as it’s so important.

      Like

  25. jjspina says:

    Lovely post about your beautiful daughter. My middle grandson has autism also. He was diagnosed from age two. He is extremely intelligent but has a difficult time in school keeping focused on tasks. He is a sweetheart and very affectionate when he wants to be. It is a hard road for parents but we are all doing what we can for him. We love him dearly. Blessings to you and your daughter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sherri says:

      Thank you so much Janice for taking the time to read this post and sharing your story about your sweet Aspie grandson. I hope that he will have ongoing support throughout his school years since he has been diagnosed so young but it is a hard road for the parents no matter what. Family love and support for all concerned is vital and it is a great blessing that you have that with yours. Blessings to you too and your family.

      Liked by 1 person

  26. Kristy says:

    Thank you for this article, I can relate go it so much. I am 33 and will be seeking a diagnosis soon.
    I always loved animals, which seems out of character because I am a very verbal type person.
    I have two cats (one is my fur-daughter and one my fur-sister I previously had a fur-son and my other mother was a cat too). I had a fascination with native animals growing up and still do to a lessor extent wombats being my fave. I like pretty much a mammals though. My absolute love and adoration for Pandas has helped me process my problems with fertility and PCOS since Pandas getting pregnant in captivity is hard. I also love elephants and felt a life enriching experience with an elephant called Myantopia. I also memorize the birth weights of the elephants in Taronga zoo. And I forgot to mention Cows.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sherri says:

      Hello Kristy, thank you very much for leaving your thoughtful comment. I am always so glad to know that this article is helpful to others suffering with Asperger’s and I do hope you receive your diagnosis soon so that you can access the support you require. Your cat family sounds wonderful. I am fascinated to learn how Pandas have helped you, and I too adore elephants. I have a dream of seeing a herd in the wild…one day perhaps 🙂 My daughter discovered furry cows recently on the internet. Have you seen those? They are the absolutely adorable. All animals and our pets play such an important role in our lives and I am so happy to know that you are so blessed by your dear cats. I wish you the very best, take care… Sherri 🙂

      Like

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  28. I really loved reading that post, Sherri. Having met quite a lot of people with ASD and, indeed, taught one of them music, I’d say they are very special people (in the best possible meaning of the word) who just see the world a little differently from others — often more perceptively. I celebrate their bluntness, as there are so many people who consider themselves normal who can barely ever be trusted to tell the truth. And, yes, the boy I taught loves his two dogs and his computer! As for your daughter’s hair colours, my daughter has (and still does) change the colour of her hair regularly. She also has some incredibly artistic tattoos of butterflies, flowers, fairies, and other fantasy creatures, as well as piercing of the belly button, nose, and ears. She sees it as art and, although I wouldn’t want it myself, it’s most tastefully done!
    P.S. I must email you a photo of my granddaughter with pink hair (only semi-permanent colour for the summer, as she’d get told off at school otherwise). Also, I’ll try to find a picture showing one of my daughter’s tattoos.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sherri says:

      Dear Sarah, how did I miss your comment here? I’m so very sorry. All I can think is that it must have been when I was having all those laptop issues and then not feeling well. Somehow I completely missed it 😦 But thank goodness I can reply now. I feel very bad about it though..and of course, you have since sent me your email of your beautiful granddaughter with her lovely pink hair!!! I have many photos of my daughter with a vast array of all her different styles and colours. She recently had her lovely, long hair cut short again, but it does suit her I have to say. She got fed up having to keep styling it. She has had the same blonde hair for some time now and has sworn off dyeing it black as it was so hard to remove. It’ s a darn good job she has such thick hair! I actually helped her achieve the red in this photo by bleaching some of the black out. But I’m no hairdresser, believe me! Thank you so much for coming over to read this post and for leaving your lovely, kind message, it really means a great deal to me. And again…so sorry for this appallingly late reply… ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  29. Seyi sandra says:

    A very moving post Sherri, and Happy New Year to you. I read this post on my phone as I’ve been trying to catch up on blogs. Your daughter is beautiful and you’re doing a great job. I’m a cat, horse and bird person, I was bitten by a dog once as a teenager and that made has made me wary of dogs.
    Animals are unpretentious, unlike us humans, so I know why it’s easy to get attached to them.
    Do enjoy the rest of your week Sherri and have a fabulous year!
    Much love and blessings to you my friend! 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sherri says:

      Thank you so much dear Seyi for taking the time to come over to read this post. You know, I share a story with you about dogs – when I was a little girl, I was jumped on by two very large dogs and my mother scooped me up in her arms as I was screaming, petrified. But you know, I barely remember it! Yet, I remember so much more about that particular time in my life. I went through a time of being terrified of big dogs but somehow I was able to get over it when my ex insisted on getting dogs when our kids were young. We always had Labs and I learnt to trust again. But I was lunged at and bitten by a German Shepherd in a park the States when my middle boy was a baby in a stroller, some 25 years ago. The only time I feel that fear return is when I am walking in the park and I see big dogs like that with their owners but off their leads. Now that scares me and then I am very wary as you just never know…
      But yes, animals give us so much and it has been truly wonderful to see how much my daughter is comforted and blessed by our pets, particularly our cats 🙂
      I wish for you the very same dear friend for the a Happy New Year and a year ahead filled with every good thing. Much love and blessings to you too 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  30. Oh my Sherri what a beautiful post, everything here I could relate to. You describe your daughters world so well. My son cannot sleep unless he has a cat on his bed. Just one of his sleeping rituals. Lucky we have four cats. I can’t wait to read your book if this is just a snippet here of how it will be written. You truly write from the heart and as a mum of an Aspie boy and husband I resonated with this piece so much. I actually went to a Tony Atwood seminar, he is amazing. I came a way with a huge understanding of my husband and my son. Thank you for the link, this has to be one of the best descriptions of how life can be for our children that I have ever read. So YES you must write that book and I so look forward to reading it xxx.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sherri says:

      Dear Kath, I am so grateful for your compassionate and insightful message, thank you so much. I had no idea that you had an aspie son and husband. How wonderful that you actually went to a Tony Atwood seminar. I heard wind of a seminar possibly coming here with him as a guest speaker but yet to learn of any details. I’m so glad that he was able to help you so much with your better understanding of both your son and husband. And how sweet for your dear son to have his cat sleeping on his bed with him 🙂 I can see how much we have in common Kath, and it is always so good to know that in writing these posts and sharing my heart in such a way that it helps others and knowing you resonated so much with it really does remind me that we are not alone in this. I am deeply grateful for your encouragement to keep writing my book, although I have to say that the one I’m writing at the moment isn’t about my daughter, but I do plan on writing ‘something’ in another book, possibly incorporating the posts I’ve written about Asperger’s, intersperesed with some of my poems and prose. There is clearly a need for the stories that we can tell Kath. I just need to get my head around just how to go about it and get the time to do so. You wonderful encouragment to write this book spurs me on and so I can only thank you again for all your support, the same support I hope I can give to you too. Big hugs to you Kath…bless you… ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  31. Again a wonderful post about your daughter’s difficulties. Animals are so therapeutic even for those that maybe are introverted so for asperger’s she is lucky to have a mother who lets her have them and understands her peculiarities. Did you see (you may have posted it ) the fellow with asperger’s who designed his entire house with his cats in mind. http://youtu.be/bGV0bzqxDoY It was just lovely. Your comparison of aspergers and cats was wonderful. Knowing that you can understand a lot of how she feels. She looks beautiful just as I imagine you looked at that age (minus of course the hair colour which I absolutely love.) ❤ 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sherri says:

      Thank you so much for coming over to read this post from a while back Irene and sharing your kind thoughts, means a lot that ❤ Thanks too for the link, I have seen it before – no surprise that it was my daughter who showed it to me! – but loved seeing it again 🙂 Interesting thing of note re the hair colour: she had dyed it black (which she eventually decided never to do so again after proving near darn near impossible to grow out) but wanted some red at the front. I helped her bleach her fringe and it turned this colour! So she was happy. Her friend's mother wasn't though when she was asked by her daughter if I could do her hair the same! Now I’m no hairdresser and I would never do such a thing for anyone else…but I think I got a bad reputation!!!!! 😀 I learnt early on with my daughter to pick my battles and letting her have her hair different colours wasn't one of them. Now she has it blonde and just gets the roots done now and then 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • I didn’t realise I had read an older post although I do remember reading one where you interviewed your daughter. You write well about aspergers as you put it on the continuum between public and private at the half way mark which is the best place to be.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Sherri says:

          Actually, I was surprised when I saw this post come up on my Facebook Page. I tweaked the tags and when I updated it, somehow it posted over there! Still, glad it did as I never think to re-post my old posts, but maybe I should do it more often, especially the ones I’ve written about Asperger’s. I am so glad you say that Irene, about finding the half way mark, as I am always very mindful of not saying too much so as to respect my daughter’ s privacy as you can well imagine. So thank you again very much for letting me know that, really helps 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

      • Sherri says:

        Haha, so true my friend, so true… 😀 ❤

        Like

  32. dlberek says:

    Thank you, Sherri, for your article. I have seen the magic that animals can bring out in people with autism and Asperger’s, as well as a host of other cognitive and emotional disabilities. My daughter with an LD shares the same “obsession” with animals, from whom she derives great comfort. I could say the same for myself, as I have some Asperger’s characteristics. I have loved animals my whole life. I write about disability issues on my blog “Celebrating Individual Abilities.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sherri says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I read your article with great interest, and can only apologise for not replying to you here much sooner. I must have forgotten to do so after I commented on your blog. I wish you and your daughter the very best. Sherri.

      Like

  33. Your daughter is beautiful inside and out! Love the photo of her and the cat! I had a good aspie friend who left this world a couple of years ago. He did so much good in the world while he was here…very involved in past life regression, politics, volunteer work for third world countries, and research. Though I always sensed there was something different about him during our years of friendship, I only found out from his family after Greg died that he had Asperger’s Syndrome.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sherri says:

      Oh thank you so much for sharing this with me Bev and for your lovely words about my daughter. This was taken back when she was experimenting in every colour under the sun with her hair 😉 The cat is our moggie Eddie who is 9 years old and a beauty. Maisy, our grey and white tabby is her real soulmate though, never leaving her side!
      I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your dear friend, he sounds like a beautiful soul who gave so much to the world. I hope he found happiness in his life.

      Like

  34. Pingback: Autism and Animals: A Close Bond of Mutual Understanding | Celebrating Individual Abilities

  35. Patrick says:

    Greyhounds are just ‘big cats’ – but can take them for a walk and have easy introduction and interaction with other people and animals. Great house pets and so affectionate, lazy and non-demanding.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sherri says:

      Hello Patrick, Greyhounds sound like perfect pets. I’ve never had them and admit to not knowing much about them, so thank you for educating me. I do hope that my daughter will have her own dog again one day. I will share this information with her 🙂

      Like

  36. jwuollife says:

    Sherri, both you & your daughter must remember that; animals see how special we are inside our heart & soul, they don’t care about; hair or skin colour, or our ailments, or our culture, or traditions, they just love us, because………
    Your daughter’s animals see who she ‘really’ is inside ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  37. Sherri, I didn’t realise that Aspberger’s children had this close affinity to animals. Recently they did a special day at my daughter’s university campus, a hug a dog day to help the students cope with stress. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  38. Michelle rader says:

    As a lifelong animal lover, I know first hand the blessings and healing they can give us. I’m beginning to worry though, about my “aspy” son and dogs. My son is a sweet, gentle, tender animal lover, but for some strange reason some dogs react badly to him. He has been lunged at by at least 4 different dogs over the years, and they always go straight for his face. Thankfully, he hasn’t been bitten, but the experiences always surprise, shock, and shake us, Nowadays, I actually get upset when I see or hear numerous comments from people about dogs being the best judges of character, because my son is truly genuine, gentle, kind, and loving. Has anyone else experienced this issue???

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sherri says:

      Hello Michelle, thank you very much for reading and leaving your comment. I wish I could give you an answer over this upsetting and troubling issue. Perhaps someone else reading here will see your comment and be able to offer some kind of advice, but I am afraid that I have absolutely no idea why this would happen, not being any kind of expert. I would think he must be quite frightened of dogs now. I am just so sorry that your beautiful son has had to endure this so many times and I do sincerely hope that it doesn’t happen again. I know that not all Aspies like dogs or cats but this isn’t the case with your son. I wish you and your son all the very best in finding the answers you seek. Sherri.

      Like

      • joanna says:

        Hi michelle. I cant give u an exact answer but i have the same experience myself – i work with dogs and cats and most times they immediately love me and ive been successful in helping some very traumatised ones. But other times i walk into somewhere with a singular or multiple dogs and they straight away growl, avoid, or back away from me. I find this very upsetting as its in sucb contrast to how i feel about them and how i am as a person – as u said with your son. Ive thought about it alot and have realised that the times theyve done this with me have always been when im struggling internally at that moment – usually when im very nervous and trying not to show it as in the case when i go to an animal shelter to meet the staff or an event in the rescue industry and because of my social difficulties im desperately trying to fit in and my mind is going in overtime. Instead of the normal nerves people have around new people or people they want to impress, i feel like my nerves are downright absolute terror but im so passionate about animals and the industry im desperately trying to cope and be normal around these people. If im alone, with someone i trust, or have become confident with the people im with at the time, i NEVER have this issie with animals being reactive to me, its only when im highly uncomfortable in a social situation.
        i dont know whether that helps you and your son but it seems to me that ASD or very socially nervous people might put out an energy of extreme fear and something like high frequency vibrations that animals pick up on and because they feel it and cant understand it they feel we might be a threat. What do you think? Id be interested to hear if you notice the dog issue in certain situations more or if your son describes he feels fearful or nervous at certain times and this might correlate to the dogs’ behaviour?

        Liked by 2 people

  39. joanna says:

    Thankyou for this wonderful story. Im a 35yr old woman who’s stuggled with social and other issues my whole life and am seeing a specialist in a few weeks to see if Aspi is possibly whats been there all along. My experience of life and the world is just how you described your daughter, to a tee, and i now work in animal rescue with my own trained therapy dog although i use him more for my own therapy than actually getting out there in the community with clients… yet! 🙂

    If i am diagnosed aspi this will be a huge relief for me and will help me find a standpoint for the rest of my life, as as it is at the moment im unsure how to do most things – work, have relationships, set goals, understand why i keep battling the same issues – ive achieved and done some amazing things in my life but the most basic things that people do are unbelievably difficult for me and i keep failing on them.

    So thankyou again for sharing your daughter’s story, it has has given me hope 🙂

    Joanna
    Australia

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sherri says:

      Dear Joanna, thank you so much for taking the time to share your moving and heartfelt story with me. I can only apologise it’s taken me this long to reply, the run up to Christmas had me lagging far behind and it is only now I am able to at last catch up here on my blog. Firstly, I read your reply to Michelle and I believe you have some very valid points about internal stress and emotions giving off certain energy that animals pick up on. What you share is extremely helpful and I will share this with my daughter. And secondly, reading your comment to me, I hope so very much that you receive your diagnosis so that you have the answers you seek. I am moved beyond words to know that this article has given you hope. This is just the connection I hope to achieve, reaching out to others who might be suffering the same every day challenges but who don’t know just why. It was a relief when my daughter finally received her diagnosis when she was 18, but even now she struggles terribly with anxiety. She is now 23. Your work with animals and your therapy dog sounds wonderful. My daughter is desperate to get a dog (we used to have them as you have read here) and I believe it will give her the strength and confidence to go outside again without feeling so anxious and stressed. Volunteering at an animal shelter will be wonderful for her, I know it. So you see, you’ve given me hope too for her too! I wish you the very best Joanna, and do keep in touch to let me know how things go with you. Take care, and I wish you a very Happy New Year, although I suspect that in Australia, you’ve already celebrated it! 🙂 – Sherri

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  41. Pingback: The Voice Of Asperger’s Syndrome | A View From My Summerhouse

  42. Donovan says:

    I need sources on why those with asperger syndrome can understand animals. I have asperger syndrome and am researching it, If you can help send me an email.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sherri says:

      Hi Donovan, thank you for your message. Unfortunately, I don’t have any more information other than the links I’ve provided here in this post and personal family experience. I wish you the very best with your research.

      Like

  43. Liz says:

    As someone with high functioning autism I grew up around animals. I had hamsters, hermit crabs, cats, goldfish a turtle and a dog, a mixed breed mutt. My aunt’s friend had a farm I visited every summer when I was a kid. I rode horses and took care of them, I also heaped gather chicken eggs, feed the animals and milked a goat. It was like at that farm the animals changed me. I was socially awkward and odd I was bullied practically till the 7th grade. Well animals helped me thru great depressive times, sad times and I think they’ll be a part of my life until the day I die.

    My dream is to live on a farm and have a couple of horses, some ponies, 7 dogs, a couple of cats, chickens, goats, sheep and the smaller pets like guinea pigs, rats, mice, a hamster, a tarantula, parakeets and a snake. Not to mention I want adopt some human kids as well

    I just got enrolled in a program for adults with autism and other special needs and some of the volunteer work/jobs I do are working with animals, I volunteer at my local zoo and tend the petting zoo animals, sometimes they let me feed the elephants and giraffes. I also volunteer at my local SPCA and walk dogs clean cages etc…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sherri says:

      Hello Liz, thank you so much for your taking the time to read this post and leave your wonderfully encouraging message. I apologise for my very late reply, I’ve been away from my blog for family reasons and only just returned to reply. You and my daughter sound very similar. I am hoping she can find some sort of volunteer work like you, once she is better able to cope with her social anxiety. She has a family of Chinese Button Quails she looks after at home and adores her two cats and our bunny. I am so glad that you found solace on the farm when you were going through such a hard time, I’m so sorry you had to endure the awful bullying. Animals are a great blessing and proven to be extremely therapuetic. I hope you achieve your dream of living on a farm with your beloved animals.
      Take care Liz.
      Sherri 🙂

      Like

  44. Tina Frisco says:

    Your daughter is so beautiful, Sherri. Animals reach right into our very souls. They don’t put on airs, they don’t judge. They sense and act accordingly. They are real, they are themselves, while most humans are not ~ we allow fear to change us and dim our light. May your daughter enjoy a fulfilling and blessed life ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sherri says:

      Thank you so much for your beautiful and wise comment dear Tina. I am so grateful to you for reading it and sharing – I feel a weight in my heart to share with others what it really is like to struggle with Asperger’s and how invaluable animals – all animals – are to those who feel so isolated from ‘normal’ every day life. I honestly don’t know what we would do without our pets…they are family and they live with us side by side bringing so much comfort, acceptance and unconditional companionship. Bless you for your kind, loving words… ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  45. Pingback: Asperger’s & Animals – Autism: Seeing the world from a different angle

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