Animal Friends Soothe Autistic Children

Relief for Stressful Social Situations




According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) now affects about 1 in every 68 children in the U.S., up from 1 in 150 in 2000. This includes 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls. Contact with animals may help ameliorate this troubling trend. A recent study of 114 children between 5 and 12 years old has found that autistic children having greater contact with animals have less anxiety related to social situations.

The research was led by Marguerite O’Haire, Ph.D., from the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at the College of Veterinary Medicine of Purdue University, in West Lafayette, Indiana. Colleagues from the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland, in Brisbane, Australia, also participated in the study.

The researchers divided the 114 children into 38 groups of three. Each group had one ASD child and two children without ASD. Skin conductance, which provides an objective way for researchers to gauge social anxiety, was measured among the children as they read silently and aloud. As expected, skin conductance was significantly higher among the ASD children as they read aloud in front of their peers. In successive sessions, when researchers introduced pet guinea pigs for the children to pet prior to their readings, the ASD children’s skin conductance levels dropped significantly.

“Previous studies suggest that in the presence of companion animals, children with autism spectrum disorders function better socially,” says James Griffin, Ph.D., of the Child Development and Behavior Branch of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. “This study provides physiological evidence that the proximity of animals eases the stress that children with autism may experience in social situations.”

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

Dirt Houses Cancer-Protective Microbe

Soil contains bacteria that kills melanoma cancer cells, say Oregon State University researchers.

Doctors Underestimate Opioid Prescriptions

A survey of 109 emergency room doctors found they frequently underestimated how often they prescribed opioids and that they prescribed fewer when alerted to the situation.

Asthma Less Likely to Afflict Breastfed Kids

Dutch children that had been breastfed had a 45 percent lower incidence of asthma later in childhood.

Spanking Linked to Mental Health Problems

Adults that were spanked as children turned out to have a higher risk of depression, suicide attempts, drinking and drug use, according to University of Michigan researchers.

Wild Berries Prove Anti-Cancer Prowess

A naturally occurring compound found abundantly in wild berries increases the cancer-fighting ability of sirtuin 6 enzymes.

Add your comment:
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »This Month

Why Wellness is Central to Everything We Do

We sat down with Beth Gardner, certified lifestyle educator and the director of health and wellness for Acton Pharmacy, Keyes Drug, in Newton, and West Concord Pharmacy to discuss this topic in detail.

ONU Will Lead a New Wellness Workshop

ONU is offering a new wellness workshop from 2:30 to 4 p.m., September 29, at Alchemy Yoga.

The Wise Way to Yoga for Joints Health

Cecile Raynor of Off The Mat Yoga is now offering a new version of her Wise Way to Yoga online course starting in September.

UNITE on 9/11 at Free Gathering at Hatch Memorial Shell

Live Thrive Love will be holding a gathering from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., September 11, at the Hatch Memorial Shell.

NLP Practitioner Certification Training

The Empowerment Partnership is offering integrative neuro linguistic programming (NLP) practitioner certification training from October 18 to 21.

Travel to India and Nepal for Spiritual Retreat

Join Bhavna’s Wellness Group on a spiritual retreat to India and Nepal from February 16 to 26, 2019.