How do the cats affect Janey? Not much, I guess because we foolishly had them since she was born. But seriously, it's like the cats most times are in a parallel universe. Janey pays them no mind at all. She doesn't generally touch them, look at them or play with them. Even if they run right into her, she just brushes them off. Freddy has been working on this, trying to get her to pat them, and that has shown just a little bit of success. The other day, we were shocked when Janey tried to pick up one of them, Vernon, our most standoffish cat. He didn't let her, slipping out of her attempt, and it was interesting that was the cat she chose. Maybe it was because he doesn't try to get her attention (not that any of them do, too much)
I've written before about how Janey used to love dogs, then became terrified of them. Now she seems a little more okay with them, and although it's never going to happen, I wonder how she would do with a therapy type dog, a dog that loved her and showed her a lot of attention. I think it would be frustrating for the dog, but I could be wrong.
I've thought a bit about horse riding therapy, but it's expensive and also not in the city. I wonder how Janey would do with that. Horses might be big enough so they almost seem more like a form of transportation or a ride to her than an animal, which could be good but kind of misses the point.
I've heard people say that all cats are autistic, but if you really know cats, that's far from the truth. The cats in many ways are more socially aware than Janey is. They follow my non-verbal language carefully. They know as if by psychic means if I am thinking about feeding them, and respond by lots of noise and getting under my feet and pointed looks to keep me going toward the food. They watch each other closely, and they play-fight, snuggle each other, have a leader and followers, they act differently when strangers are in the house---they are very social in a lot of ways. Janey does some of those things some of the time, but none as consistently as they do.
My conclusion? I wouldn't rush out and get pets for your autistic child in hopes of a social benefit. But I wouldn't NOT get them either. I think this is an area where autistic kids are as different in their attitudes toward animals as non-autistic kids are.