Donkeys-For-Good: Meet Latham’s miniature donkeys
November 29, 2018
To raise awareness about Latham Centers’ Asinotherapy Program, today we begin a biweekly blog series featuring our six miniature donkeys: Esther, Esau, Moonbeam, Curley, Angus, and Jake. Be sure to visit the blog regularly to learn all about the donkeys and the important role they play at Latham Centers.
At Latham Centers, we believe in the value of diverse supplemental programming. Our students and adults enjoy a wide range of activities and opportunities for experiential learning such as music, performing and visual arts instruction and events, Special Olympics, community service, vocational training, equine therapy, and Asinotherapy.
Asinotherapy is a fancy word for “Donkey Therapy” and it is a unique and cherished part of life at Latham Centers. Many of our adult residents are active in the program, and our Children’s residential staff are planning opportunities for interested students to work with our six miniature donkeys.
This therapeutic approach is modeled on a program currently in operation in Germany where adults with Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) are interacting and caring for these gentle animals, learning care-giving skills and patience along the way.
Latham’s Asinotherapy program began in 2008. Dr. Janice Forster, a renowned neuro-psychiatrist and expert in PWS treatment, visited Latham and encouraged us to consider developing a program for our students and adult residents. This unique therapeutic program using miniature donkeys was developed in Germany and has helped individuals with developmental disabilities learn important skills such as emotional regulation, relationship-building, and reliability.
In 2009, Latham purchased a residential home in East Sandwich with grounds approved for the boarding of livestock. This opened the door to the development of our Asinotherapy Program. With Dr. Forster’s guidance, we quickly learned that miniature donkeys are ideally suited to interacting with individuals with PWS and other complex special needs. Donkeys are known for their gentle disposition, their patience, and their love of attention. Students and adult residents participating in our Asinotherapy Program find it very easy to establish a bond with the donkeys. They can interact verbally and physically without fear of judgement or other negative feedback. As our program participants learn to nurture and encourage the donkeys to become more compliant, they are strengthening their own ability to self-regulate their emotions and behavior. This type of mirroring is an important part of the therapeutic process. It builds self-esteem and trust while teaching empathy, responsibility, and appropriate boundaries.
A priority initiative for our Development Team is to raise funds to expand the donkey therapy program to include more students and adult residents. Plans include pairing students from Latham’s Children’s Program with residents of Latham’s Adult Program who can provide training in donkey care. This is part of a broader institutional goal to provide opportunities for children with PWS to form meaningful connections with adults with PWS. The adult residents will gain opportunities to nurture and teach children who struggle with many of the same challenges they have faced. And the students will benefit from the individualized attention and role modeling.
We are actively seeking funds to supplement the cost of caring for our beloved donkeys including feed, materials, veterinary care, and maintenance costs. To raise awareness, we are launching this entertaining new blog series featuring our miniature donkeys and the important role they play at Latham Centers.
Be sure to check in regularly – we’ll share opportunities to become involved, and we’re planning a special donkey event in the spring. We welcome you to follow the story of our donkeys and our Asinotherapy Program by subscribing to our blog at https://www.lathamcenters.org/blog/.