WEST CHESTER, Pa. — State Senator Andy Dinniman recently marked April as Autism Awareness month in Pennsylvania by presenting an official Senate Resolution to Mary Beth Drobish, founder of The Barn at Springbrook Farm.
Drobish founded the nonprofit organization in 2006 at her 17-acre farm in Pocopson when she felt called to combine her passion for farm animals with her love for children.
The herd includes two miniature horses, Dreamer and Chestnut, and a donkey named Sugar.
The Barn is a fully handicapped-accessible facility so that children of all abilities can experience the complete range of farm experiences and involvement in animal care. The goal of the programs is to promote confidence, improve self-esteem, and support leadership qualities in children with disabilities and autism spectrum disorder.
“The Barn at Springbrook Farm is a one-of-a-kind place and a one-of-a-kind program where kids can be kids and experience the magic of life on a farm in a fun, safe environment while working towards their personal goals,” Dinniman said. “We are fortunate to have The Barn and its programs right here in Chester County to benefit so many kids with autism or autism spectrum disorders and their families.”
Over the years, The Barn’s programs have grown to include individual visitation with one-on-one interaction between the children and animals, a summer day camp with fun-filled days that include both animal interaction and activities designed to improve socialization and sensory skills, and school field trips that provide opportunities for large groups of special needs children to interact with the animals.
Today, The Barn is a successful non-profit with a professional staff, a dedicated Board of Directors, and a large group of committed volunteers, community partners, and patrons.
In 2005, the Bureau of Autism Services within the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services commissioned an administrative census of the number of individuals with autism receiving services in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Autism Census found almost 20,000 Pennsylvanians with autism receiving services.
The Pennsylvania Autism Census Update used new data from 2011 and found that the number of Pennsylvanians with autism receiving services increased to over 55,000 children, adolescents, and adults in the Commonwealth with autism receiving services.
In Chester County, that number increased by nearly 85 percent — from 718 in 2005 to 1,324 in 2011.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about 1 in every 68 children has an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
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