Greetings Earthlings! 😀
This week I’d like to talk about something a little more floofy- alpacas! 😀
Last week I went on an alpaca walk at a nearby alpaca farm and it got me thinking about the therapeutic benefits of alpacas for people with autism. But first things first, here’s a few facts about alpacas:
- Alpacas are members of the camelid family (llamas, camels, vicuñas, and guanacos) native to South America
- There are two kinds of alpacas, the suri and the huacaya. The huacaya (in the pictures above) have fluffy coats where as suri alpacas have long wavy hair that kind of looks like dreadlocks
- Often confused with it’s taller relative the llama, alpacas and llamas can crossbreed to make ‘huarizo’
- Their fleece is hypoallergenic (it makes lovely wool) and really soft- which makes it quite pleasurable for the sensory sensitive
- They communicate by humming and have only one set of prominent bottom teeth for eating vegetation- it’s just gums along the top😂
So how can alpacas benefit autists?
Many studies have shown that animal therapies can be quite beneficial for people with autism and ADHD where being around and stroking animals releases endorphins, decreases stress and anxiety, and lowers blood pressure. Case in point- last week during a hospital visit my blood pressure was a little bit high from the stress of being there, but after the nurses got me thinking and talking about alpacas, my pressure dropped to normal!😂
Alpacas are particularly suitable as therapy animals due to their gentle, friendly and fluffy nature. In recent years with the rise in alpaca breeding and popularity, the Cognitive Alpaca Learning Methods (CALMs) has been developed to harness the calming nature of alpacas to work with children and adults on the spectrum. As alpacas are sensitive creatures that react to fear and aggression, CALMs students are taught to put their emotions in check whilst learning how to handle and take responsibility for the alpacas. After a few sessions students tend to absorb the alpacas calming aura which has led to improvements in behaviour and demeanor, even reduced numbers of meltdowns- some autists undergoing this program have gone from having 5-10 a day to 1-2 a week! 😱 Moreover, alpacas can act as “social lubricants” wherein they provide autists with a source of conversation which can encourage better engagement.
You can find out more about alpacas and their therapeutic uses in these links:
Hope you enjoyed this post dear Earthlings! 😀
Have a lovely weekend!