Special Needs Child

Dear Sara,

I have a six year old son who has some delays mentally. He doesn’t understand things that are dangerous and I have to watch him closely as he will take off and run down the street without being aware of other people or traffic. He has seen his cousin’s dog and keeps saying he wants that dog. I don’t know if he is capable of treating a dog properly as he doesn’t seem to have the concept that people or dogs can feel pain. I have tried to explain this to him but I don’t think he gets it. He really wants that dog. Do you think I should get him one?

Dear Beverly,

You may want to wait a while before getting your son a dog. As he gets older he may be better able to understand that people and pets feel pain. It might be really difficult for him to get his pet and then to lose it because he has hurt the dog and doesn’t realize the pain the dog has felt.

One thing you might consider is buying a stuffed animal that looks like his cousin’s dog. You could help your son practice being kind to his “pet” and observe his behavior with his pretend pet. Until you are sure that he can be kind to an animal it would be best to wait.

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