Several interesting studies of children with autism spectrum disorders have shown that when the kids play with guinea pigs in the classroom, they are more enthusiastic about attending school, show more interactive social behavior with other children, and display less anxiety.
Children in the most recent study wore wristbands that measured arousal levels in the skin. When children without autism played with guinea pigs, they registered high levels of arousal and reported being happy. Autistic children also reported feeling happy playing with guinea pigs, but their arousal levels decreased, suggesting that they felt calmer and less anxious.
Researchers say that the stress of social interactions normally causes high levels of arousal in autistic kids and impedes their performance at school, but interacting with other children in the presence of guinea pigs proved beneficial for children with autism.
Autistic kids showed high arousal in stressful school activities like reading aloud to the class, but the introduction of guinea pigs into the activities lowered their stress levels. The comforting presence of the animals smoothed social interactions with other children in the classroom. Sounds like classroom pets are a win-win for everyone!
For more on the guinea pig studies, click HERE.