Asinotherapy and LathamWorks Vocational Opportunities
Latham Centers' residents look forward to participating in a variety of adventures which include Asinotherapy, or "Donkey Therapy." Additionally, our students' robust Vocational Program, LathamWorks, offers job training skills and hand-crafted products for our community of family and friends to purchase.
Our history with this unorthodox approach to animal therapy began in 2008 when Dr. Janice Forster, a renowned neuro-psychiatrist and expert in Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS) treatment, visited with Latham and encouraged us to consider developing an Asinotherapy Program for our residents. The program has grown, and now six donkeys call Latham Centers home!
The students and adults in Latham Centers' donkey therapy project learn to first earn the trust of the donkeys. This means being gentle, reliable, and letting the donkeys know that our individuals are there to help them.
Where is started: In Germany, a treatment program providing care to miniature donkeys was extremely successful in helping individuals with developmental disabilities learn important skills, including relationship-building and vocational training.
Donkey Therapy on Cape Cod
Happiness at Bill's Barn
Program Goals, Activities, and Success
Our goal is to have Latham adult residents train and mentor Latham School students in the Asinotherapy Program. As trained adults take younger students under their wings, they will benefit from the interaction, helping them to become more compassionate and helpful to the younger person, and as individuals dealing with their disorder for a longer period of time, they can share their experiences living as an adult with PWS. The younger students, on the other hand, who generally do not interact with adults with the syndrome, will learn new life skills as they approach adulthood.
The overarching goal of Latham’s Asinotherapy Program is to help each person make progress toward fulfilling his or her goals. We have realized great success on behalf of previously trained individuals and look to the future for more dramatic gains at Latham Centers.
Where it started: Working with Six Mini Donkeys
In 2009, Latham purchased a residential home in East Sandwich with grounds approved for the boarding of livestock. This opened the door for us to consider developing our Asinotherapy Program. Donkeys are known for their good nature, their crave of attention, and their patience. This program provides many opportunities for learning, nurturing, and building trust and self-esteem while teaching empathy, responsibility, and appropriate boundaries.
Latham's donkey trainer has worked with many staff members and individuals with Prader-Willi syndrome in the Asinotherapy Program. Individuals are trained to care for and nurture our six resident donkeys— Angus, Moonbeam, Jake, Curly, Esther, and Esau.
In the United States, we are more familiar with Hippotherapy involving horses as a therapeutic tool. Latham Centers had students and residents have a long history of engaging in therapeutic riding activities in the community. We've witnessed numerous benefits from involving our program participants in relationships with animals.
Additional Training Features
- Donkey 101 – what is a donkey, where do they come from, what work do they do in the “real” world, life-span and health issues, and temperament
- Safety in the paddock and around the donkeys
- Donkey and Paddock Care
Our staff at Latham School help prepare students for life after graduation. This involves coaching each student on job skills. These skills may include but are not limited to craft making, horticulture, woodworking, and soap making, and animal care.
Job readiness skills also include cash register abilities, sorting and assembly, and office assistance.
Students in the Latham Works vocational program have truly excelled since the inception of this program and Latham Centers’ goal is to maintain 100% student employment.
In the horticulture program, students grow plants from seed, root cuttings, or purchase young ornamental plants to raise. Also, through Latham Centers’ relationships with local businesses, the students receive donated cut flowers, which they arrange and deliver around the Latham campus. Preparing and growing plants and flowers is an art form and allows students to explore their creativity. Moreover, students are stimulated by the colors, aromas, and textures of the flowers, while others are calmed through this sensory activity.
After purchasing pre-assembled wood items such as benches, shelves, and storage units, students (under staff supervision) sand, paint, and finish constructing each item in the Latham Works woodworking program. This program introduces tool safety and team work while encouraging student creativity, critical thinking and fine motor skills. Additionally, sanding and painting are very therapeutic types of sensory work as students smooth out rough surfaces.
Soapmaking: Naturals of Cape Cod
Soap making involves mixing the all-natural, sulfate free, goat’s milk soap liquid, pouring it in molds, selected by the students, extracting it from said molds when dry and then wrapping each individual soap for sale. Learning patience while experiencing creativity, soap making gains popularity over the holidays when staff and community-minded businesses purchase a variety of soaps for gifts.
For the holidays Latham students prepare by creating ornaments which emphasize their creative license. Whether an ornament spelling out a favorite phrase in Scrabble letters or a bulb filled with holiday goodies, Latham Works Holiday Ornaments are always crowd pleasers at the Latham Centers’ Annual Winter Craft Sale.
Rope Mats and Coasters
Students take long lengths of rope and weave them into intricate patterns; creating placemats, floor mats and coasters. Using templates to start, students enhance fine motor skills, while engaging in creative design. These projects involve patience and mastery, and are one of the newest vocational works programs.
Cleaning, mail sorting, and clerical work are new, and often paid vocational opportunities in the Latham Works program which allow for increased chances to improve social and fine motor skills. Off campus, students learn clerical work and other job skills at community-minded businesses such as the Orleans Bowling Center, and Rogers and Gray Insurance.
Latham Centers’ mission-centric volunteer program allows students to offer their skills at a variety of places ranging from animal care facilities to local churches and elder care facilities. Our residents continually give back to our community at locations such as Brewster Ladies’ Library, Housing Assistance Corporation and local churches including First Parish Brewster Unitarian Universalist Church.
Additionally, Latham students take pride in volunteering at animal care facilities such as the Animal Rescue League of Brewster, Emerald Hollow Farms, MSPCA Animal Shelter, Centerville New England Society for Abandoned Animals and Cape Wildlife Center. Animal care allows students to learn life skills, giving them an advantage in the workforce, while simultaneously reaping therapeutic benefits.
To support our Latham Works Program:
Throughout the year, Latham Works Job Coaches accept orders for soap, woodworking, and crafts. For more information about the students’ creations and to submit a special order, please contact our Assistant Principal, Meghan Pouliot, at firstname.lastname@example.org.