Since the birth and subsequent diagnosis of our daughter Emilia’s cerebral palsy, therapy has become a way of life for us as a family. We spent hours researching and trying new methods and approaches but, in the end, it was Emilia’s natural love of animals (far stronger than for humans!) that led us to Devon and to this chapter in their lives. Having taken Emilia to hippotherapy sessions in London, we were fascinated by how responsive and engaged she had become and how positive each session was proving to be.
This instigated a new passion and Brenda soon completed a course on Animal-Assisted Therapy. It showed her even more ways in which children and young adults with disabilities could connect with animal-related activities, bringing very positive results to them. Now, within the safe and supportive environment of their smallholding, Brenda facilitates clients’ activities and interaction with the sheep, alpacas, dogs, chickens and pigs. She loves to see their confidence growing and their well-being increasing.
Most children and young people with disabilities, used to being always on the receiving end of care, benefit greatly from the opportunity to give it instead – directly to animals or perhaps by helping make something that will benefit them. Just being in the open air or with animals does us all good, calms and lifts the spirits, takes us out of ourselves. Animal-based activities can be adapted to act as fun ways to incorporate physically therapeutic exercises too.
At Apple Tree Farm we use our animals in encouraging and engaging sessions which we tailor specifically to meet each individual’s needs. Our sessions can be as short or as long as you like, we can take the alpacas through an obstacle course, or just for a short stroll, we can feed the sheep. You can cuddle our two friendly dogs and whisper your troubles away to them or collect the eggs from the chickens and ducks on your tiptoes or using both hands. In other words, we offer a safe and comfortable environment to encourage individuals to show their full potential and reach it! You tell me what your goal is, I come up with a way to achieve it and together we will get you there. Furthermore, we are happy to work alongside your own physiotherapists, occupational therapists or speech and language therapists, if they wish to get involved too!
Further to Brenda’s AAT training, she has also recently completed her Therapeutic Farming accreditation with the Countryside Education Visits Accreditation Scheme (CEVAS) and continues to work towards achieving the Code of Practice encouraged by Care Farming UK. All our staff have completed the required paediatric first aid training, gone through enhanced security checks and meet the required level of qualification for their responsibilities. We also have extensive insurance in place, safeguarding, fire and health and safety policies as well as regularly updated risk assessments.
We can offer one-to-one sessions and accommodate small groups such as schools or club outings. The requirement for parents or carers to accompany an individual can be discussed and the needs of the individuals wishing to attend our sessions will always be our priority. We have a large workshop where we can work indoors in the dry and warm, an accommodating classroom that is perfect to accommodate school groups and a tranquil kitchen area perfect for rest breaks. We offer refreshments and biscuits and cakes as we believe in nourishing the body as well as the soul and we have fully accessible toilets and hand washing facilities.
Our animal assisted interaction services are open to anyone and everyone. Contact us with your specific requirements for further information.