By Louisa Revson
An article recently published in The New York Times (6/29/15) titled “Guinea Pigs Are Autistic Child’s Best Friend,” discusses a fascinating new study in which the presence of guinea pigs was found to reduce the anxiety of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) children in a social environment, improving their ability to interact with their peers and enhancing their overall success at school. While the benefits of having a class pet, such as a guinea pig, have been recognized in past research, this study goes one step further by providing physiological data which proves that these creatures have calming effects on ASD children.
All of the 192 children participating in this study– of which 64 were on the spectrum and 128 typically-developing– wore special wrist bands that tracked their arousal levels, or levels of anxiety, by measuring electrical signals in their skin. The children were separated into groups of three with one ASD child and two typically-developing children in each group, and their arousal levels were measured as they were directed to perform specific tasks.