A small cuddly animal always brings a smile to my face. Holding a little kitty or petting a puppy seems to magically make my problems disappear, reminding me that the world is far bigger than what’s going on with me. With a fun-sized animal around, I always feel more comfortable, more at peace. They have this way of going about their business and being so authentically true to themselves that you can’t help but want to get to know them better!
At Lake Clifton, 110 km south of Perth in Australia, there’s a new kind of farm that’s making waves. It’s got pigs, sheep, goats, and horses but it’s a little different than what one might expect for an animal farm…
The INKA Respite Farmstyle Respite Stay has all the normal animals you’d imagine to be on a farm, except they are all miniature! That’s right, every animal is mini-sized and approachable. What’s more, it’s a farm geared towards children living with autism. Groups of children and teenagers are invited to stay and bunk at the farm, as a way for them to work together and care for the animals and each other. The founders of INKA Respite have a sum of 45 years of experience in psychology, behavioral problems and special needs respite in Australia and internationally. This is an interactive and safe space that involves the use of animals to help kids and teens cope.
Jim Brownlie is the farm’s manager (who has since stopped eating bacon since he’s been caring for the miniature pigs) and it was when he noticed that the size of an animal can make a child either feel safe or uncomfortable that he decided to make his farm different. The small stature of the animals on Jim’s farm make autistic kids feel comfortable so they can reap the therapeutic benefits of being close to animals.
“It’s very calming for a lot of them,” Jim says. “They’ve got the animals, they’ve got the freedom, and they’ve got the quietness away from the city.”
He goes on to describe that some of the guests at the farm are very high on the autism spectrum, and as soon as they are brought outside with the small animals, their behavior changes. The kids get to feed the animals, change the pens and generally look after them.
Tom Lean is a 21-year-old living with autism and adores coming to the farm, saying it’s become his second home. “I love it because I’m out of the city,” he said.”My family has farms so I’ve always been a farm person—I feel more relaxed, I don’t get annoyed as much.” The star attraction of the farm? The mini piglets!