Mediation: These animals that do good to others

During animal welfare sessions, rabbits, chickens, donkeys or even horses act as energy catalysts for children or adults who are weakened by life. In Flanders, Amélie Macke opens the doors to her farm for us, which that day receives four children from an IME.

Amélie Macke offers animal placement sessions at her Rexpoëde training farm, where she receives a diverse audience: children who are welcomed into a medical-educational institute, placed in foster families, elderly people living in nursing homes. © LT

If my animals can bring some of the good they give me, I might as well share it “. These words are those of Amélie Macke, a farmer in Rexpoëde (59), while the minibus taking four children from a nearby medico-pedagogical institute (IME) has just left her farm. The session ended, guinea pigs, chickens, rabbits , donkeys and horses returned to their homes and regained their composure. .

“The animal had discovered it”

This is one of the goals of animal mediation, defined by the American psychologist Boris Levinson, who in the 1950s demonstrated the beneficial effects of animals on humans: ” involve an animal carefully selected and trained by a specialized professional with one or more persons whose needs require support quotes Valérie Louchez, diversification adviser at the Nord-Pas de Calais Chamber of Agriculture. The organization has been offering diploma training since 2015 to support farmers who want to practice it (see box). ” To get started, you need to have experience in accepting vulnerable people notes Valérie Louchez. This is the case with Amélie Macke, who already receives groups of children with Green Knowledge and during birthday parties on the farm, which she arranges. ” While receiving instruction, I noticed that the donkey or cow sometimes approached a particular child, she says. The teacher then told me that this child was having problems. The animal had discovered it, that was what made me think. »

Multicolored spears

The farmer begins each animal mediation session with his “time rule”. The children find their bearing, the accompanying persons note the changes from one session to the next. After the inevitable “hello” and a few games, comes the “feeding” box. ” Guinea pigs eat a lot of vegetables, it is full of colors “Excited Amélie Macke. Daisy, Antoine, Félix and Alexandre therefore use to prepare snacks for the rodents: skewers of peppers, aubergines and cucumbers that reproduce a yellow, red, purple and green color code.

Then go to the huts to feed the animals. ” This requires the animals to get used to sounds, to gestures that we cannot control, to touch, emphasizes Amélie Macke. Animals need to be handled often. Antoine is quite attracted to chickens – he has some at home – and visits them regularly. Alexandre now downplays his gestures with the rabbits. ” He was abrupt in the beginning, he learned to channel himself Says one of the officers. In this group of 6-8 year olds with autism, rituals are beneficial. Daisy is constantly waving a straw. Except when she’s stroking the guinea pigs. ” We noticed that the guinea pig stimulated her: she concentrates and forgets to make her repeated gesture notes Amélie Macke.

Create a bond for the animal

Depending on the children, we set a goal to achieve: cognitive development, development of touch, behavior. We bring an animal and create a bond with the child “, Resumes Amélie Macke. The animal mediation sessions thus follow a defined framework. The triadic relationship is crucial to their success: The child, the animal and the farmer / referent couplesays Valérie Louchez. The strength of the farmer is to know his animal and the workshops he sets up. It is for the referent to know the child, to know how it will react, to be able to reformulate it. ‘The choice of animal depends on the affinity of the child, the susceptibility of the animal, but also on the goal to be achieved. An impressive animal such as the donkey or the horse may be relevant when the child needs a sign of authority.

vulnerable children

This is one of the effects of the pandemic: the disease of society, which has increased, increasing the support needs of fragile people. ” It talks a lot about mediation: These are people who have suffered from isolation, debilitated children, emotional distress, placed, followed at home, families in difficulty, teenagers dropping out of school », Analyzes Valérie Louchez. Animal mediation can support certain axes of personal development. Family meetings arranged in a neutral setting in the presence of animals have thus enabled exchanges between parents and children.

“It’s great to see the gesture come back”

Some farmers welcome adults with disabilities, older people suffering from Alzheimer’s e.g. adds Valérie Louchez. They remember contacts and gestures they had with their animals. It’s great to see gestures come back, it also allows you to work with fine motor skills. »

For Daisy, Antoine, Félix and Alexandre, the session ends in the enclosure, among goats, cows, peacocks, donkeys and horses. Alexandre focuses his attention on the donkey and the horse, while Antoine has found some chickens. Félix must release the steam by running around on the pasture. Some sessions are more soothing than others. The “time rule” shows its last box, the time for “goodbye” has come.

Louise Tesse

Also read: Training: animal husbandry taught to farmers

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