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19Sep2016

Impacting Autistic Students through Pets in the Classroom

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Numerous studies are touting the benefits of giving autistic children opportunities to interact with pets–and these benefits don’t stop at home. We’ve heard from numerous teachers about the incredible impact that classroom pets are having among their students:

“I think the greatest impact of experience [of having a classroom pet] was for one of my mildly autistic students. For him, this aquarium was extremely important. He spent a great deal of time studying each fish and was pivotal in naming them. He would come in each morning [and] visit with and feed the fish. Despite his sadness when three of the fish died, he was able to use it to share a plethora of information regarding fish life cycles with the class. Additionally, I was able to use his visits with the fish as an intervention when he was on the break of an emotional meltdown.”

Sabrina Sears
5th Grade Science Teacher
Elizabeth City, NC

“We have students who will finish work in order to play with the guinea pigs. We have students who are very interested in animal studies, and we have taken data on the potty behavior of the gals. We have students who ask to hold the pigs and will have a calm body while holding them, when, during the rest of the day, they might have difficulty with holding still. Some of our students will wander over to the cage during free time and feed the girls, or watch them play or eat.

Also, our pets have been great social collateral! All of a sudden, our classroom was the COOL classroom! We had something to offer other classrooms, and have had guests come and do research on our guinea pigs for a project in a different room. Sometimes students with social difficulties can use tools–such as the guinea pigs–to help them socially. Our students are able to share with, teach, and include their peers from other classrooms.”

Carolyn Jenkins
K-6 Teacher & District Autism Specialist
Cottage Grove, OR

“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.”

Jennifer Porche
Special Education Teacher
Florence, AL

“I have a couple of Autistic students and [Charlie the Bearded Dragon] 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.”

Erica Hornick
4th Grade Teacher
Toccoa, GA

These teachers’ experiences confirm 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.

Pets in the Classroom wants to help teachers bring these benefits to their classrooms! Tell a teacher that you know about PITC!

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