By Lauren Garcia
WALL TOWNSHIP — The Allaire Community Farm will host a day of fun for children with special needs next Saturday, July 18. The free event, from 10 a.m. to until 4 p.m., will be the first of its kind for the farm.
“We have a desire to work with special needs kids,” said farm owner JoAnn Burney. “And the animals respond.”
Ms. Burney said that she called several of the mothers who had attended other events at the farm and also reached out to the Brick based organization, Parents of Autistic Children [POAC] to propose Saturday’s event.
“We’re really just getting a word out to families with autistic kids,” Ms. Burney said.
Activities open to the children will include pony rides, feeding and grooming animals in the petting zoo, picking eggs in the henhouse and taking hayrides around the property.
“Anything to make them have a good time,” Ms. Burney said.
Ms. Burney said inviting special needs children to the farm provides good learning and sensory experience, as touching, feeling and smelling can be difficult for them.
“There’s something about animals, about petting — unconditional love,” she said, adding that touching, brushing and petting the animals, “calms” autistic children and “helps them relax.”
Animals seem to sense that a child has special needs, Mrs. Burney said. She described her dog, a rescue, that will sit very still and be well-behaved when in the presence of a special needs child.
“We’ve even had a nonverbal child talking while petting a dog or brushing a donkey,” Ms. Burney said.
Allaire Community Farm will also be reaching out to other farms that have worked with autistic and special needs children in the past. Ms. Burney said the farm will need staff volunteers familiar with working with children in need of individualized attention.
“Adults are also welcome,” Ms. Burney continued. “We’ve been inviting people for months now… we hope to get a good response.”
Allaire Community Farm was established in August of 2013 as a means for owners Sean and JoAnn Burney to create a safe environment for special needs children and teenagers struggling with depression.
This special day for autistic and other special needs children is only one of the ways it gives back to the community.
The farm is involved with animal rescue and provides organic fruits and vegetables for families in need or those with cancer.
Allaire Community Farm, located at 2840 Allaire Road, recently became a 501[c] non-profit organization.