Animals are naturally curious and love without judgment. So do our humans!
If your child is diagnosed with a disability, you may be accustomed to "therapy" being done at a table in a highly structured setting, like a classroom, or an office. This presents benefits as well as challenges. When children are constantly the recipients of services, the unintended focus can become what they cannot do, rather than a celebration of ability. In addition, skills taught in therapy at home or in an office can be very difficult to generalize in an unstructured community setting, particularly for children on the autism spectrum. Does a safe setting exist, where it is okay to practice social and vocational skills, to earn trust and coping skills, in the presence of love and support, without being bullied or judged?
That is why TRAK Ranch was founded.
While our staff have significant backgrounds in special education, and have been trained in delivering formal services, what is "therapeutic" at TRAK far exceeds what can be done within the sterile clinical setting. TRAK's mission is to use animals as a bridge for youth to make human connections and experience a feeling of belonging to a community. Children with visible and invisible challenges first set foot on the ranch, perhaps as members, riding students, or as part of a school vocational training group, but they quickly become experts at something. Maybe they connect with a special animal and find out all there is to know about its care. Then, they become volunteers. When we take new members on tours, or classes through on field trips, now that child is the "professional" teaching others, interacting, sharing, serving and feeling the satisfaction that accompanies pride in a job well done.
What is therapeutic about TRAK is the entire setting and mission. "Belonging" is not a service we can package into a 50-minute hour, assign a dollar value, and advertise. In all honesty, the feeling of being part of a "community" is priceless, whose rewards extend far into the future for Tucson. Everyone has something to offer. Rather than focus on disability, we celebrate ability and create a safe zone to learn, grow and reach a child's fullest potential at TRAK.