CHESHIRE, Conn. (WTNH) – 18-year-old Timothy and his classmates come to a Cheshire farm every week for a work training program through their school, Oak Hill, for students with special needs.
“I really like it here because I like to work with the animals,” said Timothy. “I clean the coop, I feed them.”
“We hope that being able to do a real job experience it will prepare them to be successful when they graduate,” said Michael Champlin, Senior Director of Support Services at Oak Hill.
The farm is home to Guided by Goats, a non-profit launched a year ago to help those of all abilities thrive in a nature-based environment.
“So the goats themselves kind of act like dogs where you can take them for walks, they’re very docile and friendly,” explained Program Director Rhiannon Morton, who said the animals also act as buffers for any participant that’s shy or needs to work on social skills.
A variety of programs are offered here for those of all ages including structured and non-structured activities.
“When the weather gets warmer, we’ll have play groups which will be led by a child development professional and will promote play among kids,” said Morton.
There are also parent training programs on-site or at home.
Guided by Goats involves specialists like speech pathologists, along with volunteers. 14 goats and plenty of chickens are on-hand to keep everyone engaged.
“They get to experience caring for something, that’s very important,” said Champlin.
The relationship with the animals is key as participants like Timothy feel warm and comfortable giving love and getting it back.
“I really love animals,” said Timothy.
“They’re very therapeutic and they’re just so sweet, they’re also cute and it’s just great for kids,” said Morton.
Guided by Goats hopes to run programming all year long even in the cold weather.
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