News, thank you for reading. Here is the latest news from Farmer Palmer's...

Find Us

Feb 20th 2020 Back to latest news

Are Farms Good for Children with SEN or Disabilities?

Are Farms Good for Children with SEN or Disabilities?

Supporting someone with learning disabilities can be challenging for parents or carers. We speak to parents who find day to day exhausting (especially if they have an SEN themselves) but equally rewarding. We understand their desire to support their child’s learning and life goals. It is an important part of leading a happy and fulfilled life. Above all offering all individuals the same opportunities.

Let’s Be More Understanding

A person with a disability can be realised in many ways.

  • medical, wide-ranging and complex, including physical
  • social where the disability is created from an environment
  • individual-environment interaction or communication
  • mental health

The definition, if a person has special educational needs, is

  • A child or young person has special educational needs if he or she has a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her.
  • Has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age, or
  • Has a disability which prevents or hinders him or her from making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age.

We recognise that an autistic child takes 6 seconds to process a question. We are aware that it is not good to ask lots of questions.  Every autistic child is very different and has different ways of doing things and processing information.


Free Compassion Image by John Hain from Pixabay


Disabilities Can Be Challenging But Help Is At Hand

Parents or carers have to contend with a number of different factors, depending on the nature and severity of the disabilities.

To be ‘inclusive’ attractions, of all types, need to be able to support individuals, regardless of the challenges they face.

Pre-Visit Planning Can Make A Day Run Smoothly

  • Check out the website and FAQS of the attraction.
  • After that, their Facebook page to see what is happening.
  • Consider road works. For instance delays around the attraction can cause anxiety to some car passengers.  Dorset Council Road Works Map
  • Do they have a video of a member of the team walking around? This can be a great resource on an attraction’s website. For instance, the animal barn can be noisy or have cheeky sparrows flying in and out.
  • Look for their daily events or weekend timetable on their website or facebook page. We post on a Friday.
  • Do they allow service dogs? (take your evidence with you as some attractions cannot allow pet dogs in)


deer at sunset farmer palmers

Nurture Through Nature

Being among the animals every day we know how privileged we are to do what we do. We recognise that visiting families may be seeing, and even feeding, the animals for the first time. It is a rare treat or – for some – an entirely new, and valuable, experience.

With the modern pressures which have a negative effect on our mental health, reconnecting with nature is more important than ever.

For children and individuals with learning disabilities, interaction with animals can have a positive and lasting impact. By learning about animal nurture they can learn about the importance of nurturing all relationships.

The importance of food, water, exercise cleanliness, and affection are universal to nurturing all living things and their basic needs. Therefore recognising how important this is key.

Talking about the comparisons between humans and animals can be illuminating. Similarly what we like and dislike helps to bridge gaps in understanding and help individuals grasp the importance of self-nurture.

Baby piglets born at Farmer Palmer's Poole Dorset

On Your Day Out, A Different Setting Can Be Unsettling

For some individuals, a change of setting or routine can cause a degree of distress. Especially if that place is unfamiliar and crowded.

If crowding is a source of distress certainly visiting attractions Monday – Friday, in term time is recommended.

The attractions tend to be generally more peaceful during the weeks outside of holiday time. The resulting benefit is more one to one interaction with the staff.

Things to Consider On Your Arrival and During the Day

Have you experienced stress on your journey? You may want to ask if you can go straight to a Sensory Area / Quiet Room for a calm down, particularly for children with autism. The Guinea Pig Room in The Party Rooms just off the Restaurant.

The attraction may have free wifi which requires a sign in, or may have a wifi password. Simply ask. Ours requires a once only sign in of email address.

Is there a routine and structure for the animal events and this is managed? Yes.  Our aim is to not put any pressure on individuals, or carers, but to encourage exploration and lots of fun. (as best you can when working with animals!).

Can the hand dryers be turned off if noisy? Yes in the new family-friendly individual rooms

Is there a hoist and changing table? We have disabled toilets and the 2020 room should have a hoist and table by the end of March 2020.


Is there an SEN/Autism Friendly Day Where Things Are Adapted at Farmer Palmers?

Farmer Palmers has created SEN time from 3 pm to 5 pm on the 20th of each month from 20th March to 20th October 2020. We chose the afternoons because we understand children can be tired/slow to get going in the mornings.

 Zena Loder starts 2020 in a new role as Education Officer.

Her role will be your SEN day co-ordinator, Educating children and presenting our new attraction for 2020.

zena giving Farmer palmers experience to disabled person

How Will SEN Visits Work At Farmer Palmers?

We will create a different timetable with quieter/alternative demonstrations. Put information on it that may be useful and a map of the park highlighting the quieter areas.

The restaurant will have food available, some cooked to order, therefore reducing the need to queue. Visitors sometimes like the buzzer which notifies you when your food is ready!  This will also be published on the timetable you receive.

The Animal Barn Team will give educational talks about our animals.

Our team are trained, helpful and engaging and will try and assist in any way to ensure everyone’s day is as enjoyable as possible. Now all you need to do is appeal to their sense of adventure by exploring the countryside. We’ll make sure that anyone with challenges can be supported around the farm and have a great day.


Are Farms Good for Children with SEN or Disabilities?

Farm Parks offer a great balance. Wide-open spaces, animal interaction, activities and shaded places to sit quietly. Getting in touch with nature, literally from the grass to the woodland, can be so calming.

Pass Holders from special needs groups, schools and families visit regularly.

Individuals with learning disabilities benefit hugely from this exciting opportunity to go somewhere new and explore. Especially if the facilities have been provided or adapted to their needs. Resulting in quality time spent on a lovely day out in the Dorset countryside.

Children meeting guinea pigs with Animal Barn team at Farmer Palmer's



Children View Things Differently From Adults So Lets Have Fun

Through play and new experiences, children don’t see why things in this world need to be the one thing only. For them, a stick is a magic wand, a sword, something to make a den from, or a poo stick!

Cautious children need the confidence to do something for the first time. Confident children often throw themselves into a new experience with abandon and no boundaries for their safety.

As rewarding new experiences opportunities are offered a  process of “sense-making” takes place. Remember children are really good at living in the moment. We view things from our conditioned, adult point of view.

So let them start a conversation with a goat. Feel the soft fur of a guinea pig. Touch a pony and feel the texture of the mane.

Feed the deer or go on a tractor ride is as much a part of an individual’s enrichment as learning about the animals that live on the farm. (Please note the bouncy, noisy tractor may be unsuitable for severely disabled visitors or wheelchair users.)

The joy and excited scream of a severely disabled person hearing the lambs bleat is amazing.  We appreciate this means they want to have just as much fun as any other child visiting an attraction therefore we’ll always do our best to make a great day out.


Here’s what our visitors had to say:

“Had a brilliant day at the farm, we’re having a holiday in the area. My 4 yr old daughter has cerebral palsy.  Jen went out of her way to ensure my daughter, who is in a chair and unable to anything for herself, was included in all the pet handling/grooming activities. It was so nice to go to a place that was clearly super inclusive. Thank you. My other two children equally loved it. Pet handling was organized brilliantly! Thanks again.” Facebook Review

“Hello, I was in Farmer Palmer’s today supporting a child with severe special needs. I just wanted to say that two members of staff were especially lovely and kind to the child. Helping her get involved despite her disability. I was so happy to see how understanding they were.” Email Review

“Went for a visit today with a 5-year-old disabled boy. The care and kindness shown by the staff were heartwarming. Helping us to give this lovely young man a wonderful experience. Thank you from the bottom of my heart” Facebook Review

Do you support an individual or group with learning disabilities? If you want to visit Farmer Palmer’s, get in touch today.  A member of the team can go over your requirements and our facilities. We will try and make sure we can provide a great time out for everyone.  Contact us here or to learn more about our attractions click here. 


Are Farms Good for Children with SEN or Disabilities? By the Team and considerations from the help of  Michelle from Minecraft and Meltdowns