Welcome to "Little Red Hen and Friends." We hope you find ideas and activities to share with children of all ages and abilities.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Alpacas for Peace

We are so excited to be attending and participating in the 2011 Peace Celebration in Mattie's Park.

Little Red Hen and Friends the Animal Assisted Therapy Division of Simple Faith Farm will be honoring Mattie Stepanek's vision of Peace by bringing our Alpacas and creating an "Alpacas for Peace," interactive station during the Peace Celebration Day.

To Learn all about Mattie please visit The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation and come out and celebrate Peace!

The Alpacas Visit Camp Koski

Camp Koski is a Certified Youth Camp (CYC) in Baltimore County for children diagnosed with Autism and related disorders   The camp is run by Patti Koski (SLP) author of The Matt and Molly Series picture stories and language activities used to teach social language and learning.   Lucky for me, she is also a good friend of mine and is always open to new ways to engage her campers in a themed activity.  Patti invited the alpacas from Simple Faith Farms to come out and spend a day with the campers.  

The Occupational Therapist inside of Tracey wants to make sure each camper uses all of their fine motor skills to actively participate in putting the "Camper Lead" on Cosmo.

Each Camper followed directions to take the alpacas through the obstacle course.  They had to start at the "orange" cones and wait for the 1,2,3 cue to begin.  "E" from Team Klein is the handler in this experience.

Demonstrating how to isolate that thumb.

Patti sharing a tender moment with a camper as he tells her all about the alpaca experience.

Cosmo sure was happy to get this reward from the camper for listening to all the directions given by the camper and for getting through the obstacle course.

Reinforcing social skills and eye contact.

"Over" the bar, c'mon let's go!

Peer Counselors assist this camper in using the Alpaca's  fiber to make felted soap.  This was step 3 in the process of this motivating multi-sensory project.

This camper is using both hands to "card" the fiber before making the felted soap.

A little help from my friends.

Jen and a camper wrapping the soap with the cording, then dipping it into the water.

Giving the command to go "around " the crates.

Soap felting station

A camper greets Cosmo.

Making new friends


How adorable is this, this is the Alpaca Craft that Patti had in her art station that day.

Campers and their Counselors reviewed a social story about Alpacas in the morning to learn facts about the Alpacas before meeting them. 
"A" creates a social story on the ipad all about Alpacas using the imovie feature.
            After a day of fun and learning, Team Klein packs up and heads back to Simple Faith Farm.

Payton Wright and Frogs

This is Payton Wright.  She was a beautiful little girl with the longest eyelashes I have ever seen.  She is the third daughter to our good friends Patrick and Holly Wright.   Payton had pediatric brain cancer.  She fought hard to put all of those around her at ease, declaring "It's gonna be a good day!"

She was funny,  I mean really funny.  Sitting and talking to her just made you smile.  She was an old soul in a tiny package.  This is Payton in May of 2007 visiting her Uncle's house in Pennsylvania.  We all gathered to celebrate her 5th Birthday.  She just had a natural way to pull you right into the moment and enjoy the present.  During our visit the girls headed outside to explore the animals and the farm.  It didn't take very long for them to find several farm yard friends to connect with.  This day wasn't about Cancer, it was about kids being kids and having an animal friend to form that connection was just what the children needed.

Payton's sisters Sydney and Savanna their cousin along with O and A take turns holding the brand new baby kittens.

Payton's sister Sydney bonds with A during an interaction with this horse.

Smiles all around!

Payton passed away that May, but not without touching the lives of so many.  Her gift to us was a reminder to live in the moment and to always make each day "A Good Day."   Payton loved frogs and they have become the symbol of her life.  To learn more about Payton and her family and all they do to help others that are dealing with Pediatric Brain Cancer,  please visit The Payton Wright Foundation.

Rooney using a Voice Output Device

Since Rooney was a little puppy we have been teaching him to "touch" a switch.   We taught him this so he could listen to and participate in turn taking activities with students that use switches to access their environment.  Rooney uses a switch to throw a ball, activate a spinner and switch toys.  This action gets lots of laughs and the students often join right in to "talk" with Rooney.

Rooney the Amazing Assitive Technology using Goldendoodle

Meet Rooney,  yes he is named after the owners of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Rooney is almost 2.  He came into our lives at a time that our beloved Tahoe was getting ready to move on.  Lucky for us,  Tahoe shared many of his charming characteristics with Rooney and we have been so lucky to have him as part of our family.

Like all puppies, Rooney loves to be social and is up for anything that will challenge him.  From the time he came home with us he began learning commands that will help him in his job as a pet partner.

Rooney is working on solving this puzzle while we are reinforcing the activity by labeling his actions such as "slide, push, pull, and up."  This activity can be paired with a student that is working on motor skills and directional cues. 

Rooney learning to "Stay" and "Leave It" when he was a puppy.  We practiced being around other animals.  Snickers the rabbit was happy to participate as she got lots of treats as her reward.

Rooney is a champ at "looking" for eggs.  We give him the cue "look" and off he goes on a treasure hunt.  We use this activity for motor and movement skills with the students.  The students are in charge of hiding the eggs and giving the command to "look."

Meet the Handlers and the Animals. (Team Keenan)

It takes a lot of work and preparation to get the animals and materials ready for an Animal Assisted Activity(AAA) or Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) Activity.  In respect for the animals best interest, the handler must understand the animal and it's behaviors.  The animals used in these activities are our pets and are well loved and cared for.  Many hours have been spent with the animals in socializing and training them to become certified pet partners. All are cared for by a veterinarian.   The following are handlers and animals that are currently in programs working towards certification.

Team Keenan:

That's me,  Jennifer Keenan.  I am a Special Educator, Assistive Technology Specialist, and I have received a certificate in Animal Assisted Therapy.  I work with children with duel sensory impairments and multiple disabilities.  I strongly believe in the human-animal-nature bond and there is nothing I enjoy more then spending my time with all of those elements combined. 

Incorporating technology into AAT activities. 

Living out the dream of swimming with the sharks... well they were whale sharks but still really cool.

Spending time with Rooney our Goldendoodle is one of my favorite pastimes.  Rooney has made many appearances showing off his excellent communication skills.  He is great at using his voice output device to ask for "more treats."

This is my husband Jay (aka World's biggest Steeler Fan)
Jay does all the behind the scene chores,  from caring for the animals to  building shelters and mainly supporting me.

             Jay also attends many of the Animal Assisted Activities as the handler to take care of the pet partner which allows me to interact with the student.               

This is "O" our oldest.  Getting ready for an Animal Assisted Activity is definitely a family affair.  Before we take any of the activities to the site, we always field test them at home.  O is trying out a natural dog treat recipe that can be created by students with special needs using assistive technology.  These activities are part of a series of vocational and life skill lessons we use to give students the skills for employment.  O is a high school student and an All Star Cheer leader.  She volunteers at the Humane Society and supports the Special Olympics.  She is also a member of the 4-H where she gains skills needed for caring for and handling the animals.

O cares for her chicken Josephine
O is an animal handler but more importantly she is a peer mentor.
O is one of the main handlers for the bunnies.

"Meet "A"   A inspires to be a teacher one day traveling to Africa and China before returning to the USA to open her own Animal Assisted Therapy farm.  A has a wide range of experience from volunteering at the Humane Society, being a 4-H member, and participating in "Paws for Braille," as a peer partner. A spends hours adapting materials for all of the Animal Assisted Activities.  A trains Rooney the Goldendoodle and is the main handler for her rabbit "Snickers."   A is extremely well versed in technology and creates many of the computer stories about the animals that are used by the students.  She not only lends her own "child's" voice to the program and voice output devices she also has created long lasting bonds with many of the students she works with.  A is learning sign language and has worked with many students that have duel sensory impairments.  A is always willing to try something new, and will always choose the animal that needs the most patience and understanding to work with like the alpaca Atlas.

A at an animal therapy event with her rabbit "Snickers."

One of A's passions.
 A creating a Switch It Maker animal story.
 A is an excellent photographer and is very creative.  She has a clear understanding of the adaptations needed to help students with special needs participate in an activity.  A will spend extra time adapting materials so her friends can share her love of animals as well.
Training Rooney to "Jump!"
Our newest family member "Malu."

Meet "E."   E has volunteered at several Assisted Animal Activities.  He is one of our main chicken handlers.  He shares knowledge as a peer partner to students that have visual impairments and multiple disabilities.  He is great at giving his peers that extra tactual experience they need to "visualize" the parts of a chicken.  E is a 4-H member and spends his free time playing basketball and lacrosse.  He is very good at helping me come up with active ideas for Animal Therapy such as the switch adapted baseball toss and the jumps for the Alpaca obstacle course.  E is interested in the Armed Services and would like to own a K9 companion one day.

Meet "N."  N is E's identical twin brother.  N is also a 4-H member, plays basketball and lacrosse and has a passion for art.  N has participated in several animal assisted activities.  N has created stories and has lent his voice to many animal related computer activities.  N has been donating to the elephant "Tara" at the Elephant Sanctuary since he was a little boy. He anxiously awaits updates on her. He is very nurturing and caring with the animals.   N and his brother take care of the chickens and the dog.  N ironically shows an Alpaca at the Farm fair with the exact same name as him.