One of my favorite parts of being a pet parent is the comfort I receive from my animals. Many people feel similarly, in fact animal assisted therapy has become significantly more common in the past five years.This positive effect is seen and well studied in children with autism.With the rate of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) among children increasing worldwide, it’s comforting to know your family’s fuzzy friend can be of service to your diagnosed child.
A recent Purdue University study monitored the impact of Guinea pigs in classrooms. The new study took it a step further and studied the impact of interacting animals with ASD children; they wanted to prove playing with Guinea pigs would reduce the children’s social stress. Study groups included a mix of “typical” kids and ASD kids and monitored their reactions to multiple conditions, both with and without the Guinea pigs. The researchers believed the ASD kids would show high levels of anxiety when the Guinea pigs were not included in their activity, and they were right on! Activities that incorporated the pigs resulted in lower levels of stress and produced a remarkable calming effect.
Previous studies showed children with ASD demonstrated improved social skills after only a few months of interacting with Guinea pigs. And a separate study found the children talk, laugh and smile more and cry, whine and frown less in the presence of the playful pigs.
Any animal can have positive emotional affects on you and your child, but furry animals tend to work best.
If you are the parent of an ASD child as well as a furry one, be sure to give the furry one an extra treat and a nice cuddle as a “thank you” for his fortuitous friendship.