According to a new study, keeping pets in homes help calm anxiety in children with autism.
Marguerite O’Haire, PhD, of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond in the College of Veterinary Medicine of Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., and colleagues discovered that when companion animals like dogs, cats and guinea pigs are around autistic children, their anxiety lessens based on the study published in the journal Developmental Psychobiology.
A study was conducted including 114 children at ages 5 to 12 and were divided to 38 groups so that each group consisted of 3 children. Each group included one autistic child while the two were regular children. All of them wore a wrist band that determined skin conductance. The band detects excitement, fear, anxiousness as an electric charge goes quickly through the skin which means anxiety and psychological arousal is experienced.
The children were given a few minutes time to read a book silently and then were asked to read them aloud facing their friends. They were then given 10 minutes to play with some toys and at the end, two guinea pigs were shown to them in their room as the children were allowed to be with the animals for another 10 minutes. It was observed that the kids with autism had higher skin conductance during reading period and playing with toys than the regular kids. Yet when the guinea pigs came, the autistic kids’ skin conductance suddenly decreased.
The researchers concluded as they explained that they believe companion animals give them unqualified acceptance as they feel safer with the animals around.