Pets offer a unique type of unconditional love and companionship that children with special needs can benefit from. Maybe you have been on the fence about bringing a fur baby into your home. How do you know if it\u2019s the right fit? Or the right time? Maybe you are wondering if your child qualifies for a service dog? Bringing one into your home is a big commitment,\u00a0and there are many things to think about before taking the plunge into pet ownership. To help, we have asked\u00a0Dr. Emily Roth, a pediatric psychologist with Riley Children\u2019s Hospital\u00a0in Indianapolis, to\u00a0share\u00a0her thoughts on the benefits of pet ownership and\u00a0what families should\u00a0consider before bringing home their very own.\u00a0\u00a0 What are some of the benefits of pet ownership for kids with autism? There are many benefits to owning a pet. Specific to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), pets provide\u00a0social companionship, increased opportunities for responsibility, communication and physical exercise.\u00a0\u00a0 What\u00a0should parents\u00a0consider when choosing a\u00a0pet?\u00a0 Families need to make an educated choice when choosing a pet. When you bring one into your home, you want to make sure it is well trained, healthy, non-reactive\u00a0and good with children. It is important for families to also\u00a0consider the\u00a0pet\u2019s\u00a0needs, such as\u00a0exercise, training requirements and ownership costs.\u00a0\u00a0 What about\u00a0service dogs? There is limited evidence supporting service animals for children with ASD.\u00a0Most research on\u00a0children with ASD and pets\u00a0assesses the benefits of owning a pet, rather than the benefits of having a service animal. Some organizations do\u00a0train dogs to help alert parents of safety concerns related\u00a0to their child with ASD, such as leaving their bedroom at night or self-injurious behavior. Families should make this important decision in collaboration with their healthcare provider, given the limited research supporting these animals and their expense. Pets bring a tremendous amount of joy to families, and this can be especially true for children on the autism spectrum. If it's something you're considering, talk to your child about the responsibilities and changes they can expect once the pet is adopted into your family, such as where the pet will eat or sleep, and what kind of behaviors they may expect from the newest member of your family. You may\u00a0also\u00a0want to take a\u00a0few trips to the animal\u00a0shelter,\u00a0or the breeder,\u00a0and allow your child to acclimate to the pet before bringing it home. Also\u00a0consider purchasing the supplies that will be needed a couple weeks before the animal is expected to arrive \u2014\u00a0such as food dishes, a\u00a0kennel, a sleep mat, litter box, etc. \u2014\u00a0and\u00a0place\u00a0them around the house. If the changes\u00a0happen gradually, this may help with the overall transition. It may take time, but hopefully you will soon discover a blossoming friendship between your child and pet!