Having Pets May Reduce Anxiety in Autistic Children




A new research on the behavior of animals and autistic children has revealed that being around animals can actually help in reducing anxiety. According to the findings of the study, interaction with animals can help reduce the social anxiety in young autistic children. The finding opens a new chapter in the field of scientific research field for anxiety cure.

The finding of this new research could lead to new and innovative approaches to treat autistic children. According to the researchers, animals like guinea pigs, cats, and dogs can help autism patients improve their social interactions and skills. This helps in improving their overall condition and help them deal better with life.

This study included 38 autistic children and compared them with 76 children without any symptoms of the disorder. All the children included in the study were given to wear special gadget on their wrists, which help in detecting anxiety and such like other responses to different social situations.

The study

All the children were given a book each to read by themselves. Then, they were asked to read the books in a group of two or three other children. After completion of this exercise, they were involved in a 10 minute play enactment in a group. After that, the children were allowed 10 minutes of playtime (supervised) with the guinea pigs (guinea pigs were chosen by the researchers owing to their gentle nature and small size).

The findings

It was observed that children with autism has a significantly high level of anxiety when reading silently, alone, and reading aloud in the group, and also during group play. It was noticed that the autistic children have reduced anxiety levels when they were left to play with pets like guinea pigs used for the study.

According to the researchers, this reduction in the levels of anxiety has been because of the reason that the pets like the guinea pigs provide acceptance and make the children feel safe and secure.This fact was stated by Marguerite O’Haire of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond and her colleagues at the Purdue University in West Lafayette.

This study was done  by a research team that was funded by the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. It was published recently in the Developmental Psychobiology. According to James Griffin of the NICHD’s Child Development and Behavior Branch, “Previous studies suggest that in the presence of companion animals, children with autism spectrum disorders function better socially. This study provides physiological evidence that the proximity of animals eases the stress that children with autism may experience in social situations.”

However, the researchers confirmed that the results of this study do not imply that the parents of the children with the disorder should keep pets. Further researches and studies are required to establish the truth of the facts that has been found in the study. While it is true that pet animals reduce the stress of the autistic children, it is equally true that further research needs to be done to learn how animals might be used to help the children with autism develop social skills.