Analysis Of Guinea Pigs Are Autistic Child's Best Friend

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Jan Hoffman, a writer for The New York Times, released an article called “Guinea Pigs Are Autistic Child’s Best Friend” on June 29th, 2015. In this article she discusses a study that was done in 2015 by Marguerite E. O’Haire and several others, as part of a larger project, and includes quotes with several experts in the field. Immediately I disliked the title of this piece for using the term “autistic child”, which essentially reduces these children to nothing more than their diagnosis.
Looking past the distasteful title however, Hoffman does a fairly good job at accurately depicting the research she cites, as well as mentioning the implications of the findings, without overstating them. Hoffman begins the piece with a few sentences mentioning
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In the larger study, it is specifically mentioned that guinea pigs were chosen because they are “diurnal, relatively easy to handle and care for, generally like to be held, and seldom bite”. (O’Haire, 163-164)
Hoffman mentions the four conditions that existed in the skin conductance study – reading silently, reading aloud, playing with toys and interacting with the guinea pigs. The study consisted of a sample of 99 children, 33 with autism spectrum disorder, between the ages of 5 and 12, who were enrolled in a mainstreaming classroom. The fact that this study consisted of a decent sized sample, and occurs in a fairly natural setting – the classroom – is a strength of the research. Three children, one with autism spectrum disorder, and two typically developing peers were involved in each session. She states that the first three tasks made the children with autism spectrum disorder anxious, yet interacting with the guinea pigs dropped their arousal
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In my opinion this may have been her way of subtly suggesting this is one of the first studies to use physiological response to measure how animals effect children with autism spectrum disorder. It is actually only the second study to do so, with the first study having examined cortisol levels upon waking to determine stress levels of children with autism spectrum disorder with and without a service dog present in the

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