People with autism have many special talents and unique challenges. They can be very focused in a particular area of interest, yet have a hard time focusing on what others consider simple daily living tasks. The benefits of people with autism working and living on a ranch (or farm) have been studied and documented for years. Along with a safe, quiet environment and many opportunities for exercise, a ranch gives the people with autism a chance to do meaningful, purposeful work. Instead of sweeping parking lots, bagging groceries or sitting at an unchanging assembly line like many other people with disabilities, a rancher has the opportunity to gather eggs, shuck corn, work in the garden, and feed and care for the animals.
Ranch work can easily be tailored to an individual’s interests and abilities. They can practice the historically significant activities that our modern society sometimes seems to have forgotten existed like caring for their own animals and raising their own food. They can clean the food, help cook it, and share it with others.
Ranch work also gives ranchers a variety of tasks to participate in which helps prevent boredom and promote cognitive function. It engenders a sense of self-sufficiency and independence. With wide open spaces and plenty of land, ranchers can feel more comfortable to be themselves instead of feeling the pressures to conform to the expectations of other as they would have to in the city or suburbia. The ranch also allows for greater freedom of movement becuase of the lack of traffic or strangers that can pose a threat. One of the farmstead’s greatest benefits is its sense of community which, for people with autism, can create a more integrated life. They are not isloated in their small apartment but have a family of ranchers, staff and volunteers to build trusting relationships and with whom to venture out into the larger community.
Read Echoing Hope Ranch’s Concept Paper for more details about program.