Saturday, May 29, 2010

Unique New Mexico farm serves women with autism

From KOAT-TV in Albuquerque, N.M.:

There's a special place tucked into Albuquerque's south valley: a four-acre farm devoted to helping women with autism.

Mandy's Special Farm was founded in 2000 by Ruthie Robbins after a disappointing trip to a group home in California that wasn't the right place for her daughter, who has autism.

"Her life was just difficult, and was going to stay difficult, until we found a place to meet her needs," said Robbins. "Driving home, I'm depressed, my husband's depressed, our daughter's just out of control almost, from tantruming to not understanding what's going on and I looked him in the eye somewhere in Arizona and said, 'We can do this better.'"

Mandy's Special Farm is the only place of its kind in the United States. Four women currently live at the residential learning center, caring for animals and tending to gardens and orchards.

"They thrive here, it's such a great environment for them," said executive director Heidi Rishel-Brakey. "People with autism typically need a lot of structure and predictability and we provide that."

This year, the farm is planning to take the produce they grow at the farm and selling it at local farmer's markets.

Mandy's Special Farm is trying to raise money so it can some day start a day program to help even more autistic adults.

Rishel-Brakey and Robbins said they also hope others will follow their lead and open 24-hour care locations so that more autistic women can have the chance to thrive.