An unique approach to therapy works wonders with local ASD children

Just a short drive down the Mornington Peninsula, you’ll find a therapy program for young children and teenagers with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other disabilities, providing a uniquely different approach to therapy. Whilst Barefoot Therapists provides, OT’s, Speech Pathologists, Dietitians, Counsellors and Equine and Animal Assisted Therapists, Arts Psychotherapists and Psychologists, this is not your run of the mill program. For starters, there are two sites, one is a clinic in Rosebud and the other is small farm just down the road, in Boneo.

There are individual and group-based programs which provide a multi-disciplinary and collaborative approach to therapy depending on the needs of each child.“Our main purpose with our farm-based therapy is to offer something to children who have found therapy ‘in rooms’ challenging, and would benefit from outdoor therapy sessions,” tells CEO, Sarah Munn. “On the farm we provide clinical expertise in an outdoor setting.”

At Gandara Farm in Boneo, children will find rabbits, guinea pigs, 10 horses including Albi the foal and Hercules, four donkeys, chickens, goats and a couple of friendly dogs.“Our animal assisted therapy program teaches self-care skills such as hair brushing, plaiting, showering, bottle squeezing, cooking, and much more” tells Sarah. “Speech Pathologists can also work with children on the farm with lots of opportunities to learn early language such as animal names and sounds in a relevant, functional setting.”

While working with the animals, children are able to learn and develop self-care skills and then practice them at home. Cooking for the animals introduces new foods and textures which helps with sensory processing and food issues.Groups are multi-disciplinary or inter-disciplinary depending on goals, and have the focus on social skills whilst making the most of farm-based activities which are fun and engaging. Often social cognition, collaborative play and emotional regulation can be barriers to successful friendships for the children, and these can be tackled subtly at the kids shed, equine assisted groups or our other skill based programs.

“It’s a great opportunity to work with novel things, it also improves engagement and can be effective for anxiety management,” tells Sarah. “Without the therapy, a farm is just a nice opportunity to interact with animals, but we provide much more than that, having a team of highly skilled and experienced registered therapists.”A variety of programs are run on the farm and in the clinic, each program matches the right professional skills with each child or family, it’s all about setting goals and providing outcome-based therapy.“Barefoot Therapists philosophy is to provide clinical expertise, using child focused activities in friendly environments, because best practice recommends working in the child’s natural environment will be most beneficial.”

Barefoot Therapists started in 2012 when Sarah faced challenges finding suitable services for her young children who both have additional needs. Sarah’s vision was to provide services which placed valuing her clients at the centre of decision making, from a positive environment, to empathetic and skilful therapists. With a background as a clinical specialist in neurology and neurosurgery, at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, Sarah is always looking to bring that scientific evidence standard to the work that the Barefoot Therapists provide.“We recently had a girl with Downs Syndrome who learnt to ride a bike in our bike riding program,” tells Practice Manager, Bronwyn Callow. “Not long after this exciting achievement the family took some time off to travel around Australia. During their travels they stopped at a farm stay and borrowed some bikes. This was the first time the whole family had gone on a bike ride together.”

Barefoot Therapists support children of any age, with any diagnosis which affects their learning and development, or those who are struggling with day to day tasks. The program is registered with NDIS, Medicare, Better Access to Mental Health and DSS. To find out more about the therapy programs, the culture, the farm and the assessment process visit or email to

SASI Guest Parent Blogger