When you have special needs you don’t always get the same access to social and recreational activities as everyone else. One farm is attempting to solve this issue by connecting children with special needs to injured animals to form healing friendships.
An animal sanctuary called “Safe in Austin” in Austin, Texas, was created to help both people and animals. This extraordinary idea was made by Jamie Wallace-Griner, who recognized the bond between her son and his therapy dog, Angel, “… Angel gave my son confidence and the strength beyond anything I was capable of doing as his mother. She [Angel] provided protection from his fear, understanding of his thoughts, and power over his disabilities.” It is scientifically proven that autistic kids and kids with other learning disabilities tend to interact with pets better than humans. According to myspecialchild.com, kids with autism especially tend to communicate with non-verbal cues to others, this helps them communicate with animals better because animals are trained to understand hand movements or body language.
With that knowledge, Jamie and her husband, David Griner, purchased an old ranch in Lander, Texas. With the ambition of making a judgment-free animal sanctuary and rehabilitation center, they also proposed a safe haven for kids with special needs, mental health issues, or histories of past emotional trauma.
Wallace-Griner shares some information about the steps they take for the business, she says, “once they are healthy enough and we have earned their trust; we introduce our rescues to children that come from similar backgrounds of abuse, neglect, and/or special needs. Our animals provide healing to trauma, at-risk, and/or special needs children by way of unconditional friendship and a clear, loving, example of what they are looking for most… hope.” This shows that they take the time to make sure the animals are emotionally stable before letting kids play with them. They also take the time to listen to their clients’ needs in order to match the animal and the client.
Over the years, the ranch began to include a wider variety of animals that have special needs, such as chickens, pigs, and goats. “We have animals that are blind or deaf, have diabetes, cerebral palsy, deformities, missing limbs, broken spines, …they all become family,” Wallace-Griner told the Washington Post.
Their animals love people of all shapes and sizes, and all backgrounds are welcome to the sanctuary. “We don’t care about the choices you made in the past, what you look like, who you love, or what you eat. We concentrate on no judgement at all,” Wallace-Griner added.
With COVID in the air, “Safe in Austin” is still rolling. The first thing they tried to do during the pandemic was opening to members of the public who can have tours of the sanctuary led by volunteer guides. Now, “Safe in Austin” has made the decision to only have pre-arranged tours of private small groups.
Wallace-Griner aims to make sure her customers’ needs are met. She sends emails to potential visitors to see how she could help accommodate their needs. She then invites them to a “healing hearts tour” where they can meet the animals.
For more information, check out the original article below!
My Special Child:
The Washington Post: