By Marisa Mercurio
In late January,staff members from Serenity Farm Equestrian Center visited Central Trail Elementary in hopes of offering equine therapy to the school’s autistic students. During the visit, the students played with toy horses, walked through an obstacle course which mimicked an equestrian race, and had horses stories read to them, among other activities.
As the Jan. 27 visit was the first of its kind, the union of Serenity Farm and Central Trail was exploratory, but according to intervention specialist Kami Blakeman, it was an astounding success and will be followed with others. Blakeman stated, “My vision is to have an ongoing partnership with Serenity Farm and Sylvania Schools, where each year my students with autism would be able to participate in an eight-week program at the farm.”Her goals for the visit, she continued, were to increase her students communication skills, improve gross and fine motor skills, regulate and decrease some behaviors,teach safety and responsibility, and help improve basic academics. At the Lucky, Ohio farm, students would get to enjoy lessons that include brushing the horses or finding numbers or letters around the farm. Blakeman also stated that it is good for students to learn outside of the classroom occasionally, and that teaching is all about “real life experiences, teachable moments, and making connections.”
Debra DeHoff and Kathleen Warrington from Serenity Farm were pleased with their successful interaction with the students and noted it was a great fit. The next visit in May will bring a mini pony called Team Thunder to the school. Teachers will also attend a retreat in the fall for team building.
As Central Trail would like to continue their newfound partnership with Serenity Farm, Blakeman stated that they are currently looking for a local organization or sponsor to help fund the unique curriculum this would provide for autistic students in Sylvania Schools.