I am extremely grateful to learn that Animal Assisted Happiness brought animals to my daughter’s high school before Finals week.  The animals not only brought happiness to the high school students who were stressed out from school work and the upcoming final exams, they helped give many students the opportunity to really relax and take their minds off their school work and stress and exams!  I will always fondly remember picking my daughter up from school that last day before finals, her animal fix made possible by Animal Assisted Happiness put such a joyful smile on her face!  Precious for a stressed out high school student and heart-warming for this mom!  Thank you!   Parent at Homestead High School, Cupertino

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Hi, my name is John Rodrigues and I have been working/volunteering at AAH for the last three years. I started working at AAH because I have always loved animals and it was a way for me to be around animals and help my community. When I first started feeding I needed some help but, now I can feed the animals without any assistance from others and I have the confidence to let the other people who feed  know if something seems not right at the farm. I understand how important my job is, the animals recognize me and know that when they see me they are going to get their dinner. They depend on me to do my job and I love to help them.  Since working at AAH I was accepted to and completed a work program at Stanford hospital through a program called Project Search.  I was also hired at a catering company as a dishwasher and I believe AAH has helped me accomplish all of these things.

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As a parent, John is a perfect example of how AAH helps a wide variety of people with disabilities in a variety of different ways. AAH's animal therapy goes beyond the benefits of an animals touch it is also able to help those higher functioning people develop skills that will enable them to live independently. John started this job believing he was able to work with animals and "do community service work".  What AAH gave John was the confidence and job skills to become a productive member of society and pursue full time work.  -- Fiona

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            I was in fifth grade when I went on my first visit to AAH. At the time, I was really struggling in school. Whenever we were given time to play or talk with our peers, I would stay off to the wayside, lying alone in the field or some corner of the classroom. I had little interest in interacting with my peers, and when I had to interact I was often made fun of which in turn would make me even less interested in my peers. It was a vicious cycle. I had services to help me keep up in the classroom, but I wasn’t motivated to improve socially. All I really had in terms of interests was an interest in animals, but at that point it was limited to looking at them in pictures and having stuffed animals. At this point my mother was looking for a way to take advantage of this interest and came into contact with Vicki. A week or so later, we had our first visit in Vicki’s backyard. It was an incredible experience for me; I suppose I didn’t realize that what I saw in books were living, breathing creatures that I could interact with. I was particularly fascinated with the goats, which looked like dogs to me, and yet acted so differently. After that first visit, I wouldn’t stop talking about it and couldn’t wait for the next visit. A few visits later and Vicki could tell that I wanted more. She started letting us clean the pens and feed the animals. I had a blast doing this because I felt like I was helping the animals I had grown to love. I seldom felt helpful or useful before this experience, as my symptoms often led to me being the one who needed help. Eventually, I began to want to share this experience with others, and Vicki happily helped me and my mom organize a social group where I could share these animals with my peers. I spent hours leading around a blind child and showing him all the animals. This was a huge step for me, as I went from dreading social interaction to actually looking forward to a social event. I finally had something I could talk to my peers about. Of course, I still struggled socially; my symptoms did not magically disappear. What AAH did provide me with was the motivation to work on my symptoms. To talk about the animals I cared about I needed to learn how to converse with others. To continue pursuing my interest in animals, which became a passion at this point, I needed to learn how to reach out to people. AAH helped me find my passion, and with it the motivation to better myself.

-Jon

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I had heard great things about AAH before, but Annie came home and her highlight of the morning wasn't feeding the animals or holding the bunnies, which she definitely enjoyed, but seeing how happy one of the girls with sensory differences was when petting the rabbits. I also appreciate how wonderful Simone was in immersing Annie to the care and personalities of the animals. Thank you for providing such a mutually gratifying opportunity to both volunteers and visitors.

Parent of volunteer

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Our classrooms have been involved with AAH Farm for the past 4 years and this has been one of the best activities for my students. At Cupertino High School, we have two classrooms with a total of 24 students who have moderate to severe disabilities such as Autism, Down Syndrome or learning disabilities. The focus of our program is to teach individuals academic skills, social skills, life skills and vocational skills. To help the students build those skills, we participate in a variety of community-based activities and job coaching opportunities. AAH Happy Farm has been one of the best supports for my students. Being involved with AAH Happy Farm helps support my students socially, emotionally and behaviorally. AAH visits our classroom once a month for one hour and also some students participate in a job coaching opportunity at the AAH Happy Farm. There are many positive effects for my students because of this partnership. For instance, one of our students was afraid of many types of animals and was leaving the room if he knew there was an animal coming to visit. However, after several visits everything has changed and now he is more comfortable with animals. He pets the animals and would like to feed and care for them. Another student had a hard time getting to school on time and was struggling leaving the parent’s car. Since our involvement with AAH Farm he has become more motivated and he walks to the classroom asking if he is going to the farm that day or not. Also, on days the farm is visiting he cooperatively finishes his lunch on time so that he can spend time with the animals. We are so thankful for having AAH Happy Farm in Sunnyvale and we are looking forward to more opportunities for support to the students.

Thank you again for the opportunity,

Zahra Salari

Special Education Teacher

Academic Community Transition Program

Cupertino High School

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I really appreciate what AAH is doing for our students.  Your visits are always fun and exciting for our students (as well as the staff and teachers) :-).  Last month's visit was extra special for one of our students.  That day, she was having some challenges since she came in the morning being off-task and engaging in her highly stimulating but disruptive behaviors.   She also kept wanting to go outside the classroom.  When Simone came with the animals, I brought her outside to play with Melody.  She stroked her hair, pet her and patted her gently on the head.  She also gave Melody lots of hugs.  Then she sat down and gazed at Melody for a full minute.  When she was directed to go back inside the classroom to play with the other animals, our student was very calm and followed directions and maintained compliant  behavior the whole day.  I saw this again on the next month's visit and she even helped walk Melody to the front of the school, as Simone suggested.

Thank you so much for letting our students play with the AAH pets.

Lynhaven School Teacher

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The one thing that struck me was a boy that was otherwise unresponsive to our visit.  In other words, we could not tell if he knew we were present.  So we just continued to talk to him and describe the pet and bring the two closer together.  However, the boy in the wheelchair was in an awkward position so there was no place to put the animal without it sliding out of his lap.  The next thing I knew, the boy had lifted his leg up and placed his left foot on top of his right knee as if to cradle the little rabbit or guinea pig that we were showing him.  I was touched by the subtlety and sweetness of his actions.

Volunteer from Visit to Saratoga SubAcute

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Thank you so very much for the special visit to the Meadows! The residents truly enjoyed the animals; they loved holding and petting them! It always brings so much joy to me to see their faces light up! Thank you thank you! Simone did a great job and was very patient and friendly with the residents.

Thanks again,

 

Nicole Fierar

Program Coordinator

Maggie's Place

Los Gatos Meadows

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There are so many ways to describe what an AAH smile means.  Harry Henry described it this way:

“Vanilla Bean (the chicken) helps me feel happy.

Vanilla Bean helps me feel calm and gentle.

Vanilla Bean helps me feel careful and in control.

I see how happy the other animals make my classmates feel, too.”

As you can imagine, stress-reduction is especially important for children with special needs, health and family challenges.  Harry’s mom told us that Vanilla Bean “has an almost Zen-like presence that helps Harry center, calm & rest himself.”  

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These are pictures from Sawyer’s Grandma and Grandpa’s property.  He went from being so afraid in the past to wanting to be very hands on and even tried to ride Mr. Peabody, the pony.  I really think AAH has helped him overcome his fears.  

Sawyer’s Mom