Numerous studies have touted the benefits of having autistic children interact with pets. And according to teachers, these benefits also extend to the classroom. Teachers who have received grants through Pets in the Classroom frequently report that their pets are positively impacting the classroom environment, especially in classrooms where students with behavioral and social issues are present. We’d like to share a few teachers’ experiences with you.
Jennifer Porche, a Special Education Teacher in Florence, AL, saw a change in classroom behavior thanks to her classroom guinea pig:
“We have seen a great turnaround in classroom behavior now that we have our classroom pet, Buddy Boudreaux (guinea pig). I work with students on the autism spectrum in grades 5-6.
We have many moments of frustration and sensory overload that often lead to meltdowns within our classroom setting. Buddy has helped so many of our students feel better when they get to just sit and read to him. They look forward to earning reward time to hold him, interact with him, and help with some of his pet responsibilities (such as feeding, filling water bottle, etc.). We are so grateful for your grant and have truly seen a turnaround in our behaviors.”
Erica Hornick, a 4th Grade Teacher in Toccoa, GA, also saw changes in her students due to their classroom pet, Charlie the Bearded Dragon.
“I have a couple of Autistic students and [Charlie] often sits with them and helps them on days when things are out of sorts. It is amazing! The biggest success story for Charlie is that we have a student in an Emotional/Behavioral Class that has a really hard time fitting in. He gets very angry at times and when the teachers weren’t able to calm him down with the usual strategies, we found just holding and talking to Charlie for a few minutes when he gets upset works every time. He simply comes to my room and we take Charlie out and he holds, rubs and feeds him by hand and that does it. It’s like a small miracle.”
And Dr. Megan Parry-Jamieson, a teacher in London, Ontario, Canada, also saw changes in her students, as well as others in the school, due to the bearded dragon named Peaches that resides in her classroom:
“Throughout the day, students in our building come to visit. These kids have mental health and other social/emotional needs, and respond in amazing ways to our little friend. They peer into her habitat and — because she is so well socialized — she comes right up to the glass and interacts with them. Our kindergarten buddies came to study Peaches and learn about habitats and ecosystems. And some of our students who have autism come and sit with Peaches, just to have a quiet moment. Her tendency to come up to their side of the habitat and then settle quickly makes her a very calming pet, even for the most anxious of students.
I had no idea a classroom pet would make this kind of difference in a room of intermediate students. I truly had no inkling that one classroom’s pet could support so many kids in one school.”
These teachers’ experience confirms what studies are saying: having small animals in the classroom can significantly increase positive social behaviors among children with autism as well as other students.