Cerebral palsy: Mostly caused by pre, peri or postnatal conditions or by brain injuries, infections and degenerative diseases. Different forms of cerebral palsy exist, based on the part of the brain that is damaged.
Spinal cord palsy: It can be caused by many illnesses, but the most common cause is spinal cord injury due to car accidents and traumas inflicted in adrenalin sports, etc.. The health status and motor abilities depend on the level of the spinal cord damage and also on the location of the damage.
Spina bifida: This is present from birth, caused when the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly.
Amputation: Loss of one or more parts of the body due to accident, injury, infection, etc.
Muscular dystrophy: is a progressive illness associated with loss of muscular tissue and a decrease in muscular strength. It has a genetic background and the motor abilities of a person gradually deterio- rate over time.
In general to (most)
people with physical
good. Here, I
feel like I am a
of society for
It is important for boys in a wheelchair that they can chop with an axe and feel like 'normal' guys" *
Dignity and Respect
All adult people with physical disabilities should be treated as an adult. This means being respectful, courteous and kind when assisting them. It also means promoting the person's dignity by being mindful of privacy, respecting confidentiality, including their decisions, respecting their rights and valuing their differences. Remember always to see the person and not the disability.
Familiarisation and goal-setting
Before people with physical disabilities join the social farm, it is good to figure out what the possibilities for that person will be. Can they move around enough on the farm and the yard, or do adjustments need to be made? What activities can the person do? And what is possible over time? This is best done on the ground, with a good tour around the farm. After this, it is crucial to promote self-determination by encouraging people to set their own goals and to figure out how these can be met within the context of the overall farm operation.
Flexibility is key
Work arrangements can and should be continually adapted and adjusted according to people's individual challenges and capacities. Rotation of activities, adjusted hours, allowing for both individual and team work can all be considered. Through trial and error, it can be seen what a participant can do. Through the entrepreneurial spirit of farmers, it is often possible to adapt things.
Patience and time
A balance has to be struck between getting on with things, supporting people to make a genuine contribution and with the need to ensure people are working at a pace which is comfortable for them. For people with physical disabilities, lower work pressure plays a vital role as they may naturally have limited capacity to perform work. Ensuring people have enough time to complete things—and as independently as possible—means they will be more willing to continue to try to do them themselves. Pushing people to do something they may not be able to manage might backfire and lead to a sense of failure and guilt.
Be aware of limitations and challenges
Although social farming tends to be an overwhelmingly positive experience, you should also be aware of some challenges and limitations.
Everyday farm activities
Do not overthink it. Simple and ordinary activities in which people feel confident should form the core of their time on the farm. It is important that people enjoy their work and that the work they do is genuinely useful, e.g. feeding the sheep, collecting eggs, sowing seeds, brushing the pony.
Activities which can be done independently or which build independence
This is one of the most important goals as it is often one of the biggest gaps in the life of people with disabilities. People should be encouraged to at least try things, to get involved in planning and decision
-making, to step out of their comfort zone and to do things by themselves where possible. The kind of adjustments described below can support this.
Activities which build physical strength, fitness and capacity
This can be a group with poor fitness and physical health overall and farm-based activities can provide excellent opportunities to gently build fitness, strength and agility in a ‘health by stealth’ approach.
Think of it as ‘physiotherapy on the farm’. Bending, stretching, lifting, pushing, pulling oneself up using everyday farm equipment, where possible walking uphill and on uneven surfaces (for those not in a wheelchair): all of these can make a big difference over time.
There may be a need to make some adjustments on the farm if you wish
to accommodate people with a range of mobility issues. It’s worth
nothing that lots of other people who come social farming might benefit
from these, as may other visitors to the farm and even family members.
The overall goal should be for people to be able to move about and
work on the farm as smoothly and independently as possible, to not be
continually confronted with barriers, with things they can’t do, places
they can’t go. You should work with individuals to plan what they need
but some of the key physical adjustments might include:
"We have an employee who
needs a walker. He uses a
rollator. He does activities he
can do sitting down: for example,
planting tomatoes in
the greenhouse. “*
* All quotations are from interviews with experienced social farmers carried out as part of the SoFarTEAM Project.
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