The DuMond Conservancy has for a number of years offered a supplementary program that allows intellectually disabled youth to become valued productive members of our team and practice functional living and workplace skills in the process. Students assist in all sorts of activities ranging from preparing primate meals and maintaining cages to caring for and learning about different species and the monkeys living at the Conservancy and Monkey Jungle. The majority of the monkeys are Owl Monkeys that live in small family groups and several families have one family member who is handicapped in some way.
We feel that partnering these interns with a small number of handicapped monkeys, many who are elderly and have special needs, is a powerful tool to capitalize on the inspiration the handicapped monkeys have been to our organization in general and the motivation they provide in particular to these intellectually disabled youth. While ours is not a formal therapeutic program, we note that animal therapy to help intellectually disabled students improve their learning abilities has won increasing acceptance among psychologists in recent years, most notably the use of dolphins with autistic children.
In addition, we offer the intellectually disabled interns an opportunity to stay connected to the community, through staying in contact with their friends from school and organizing outings to community events – high school football games being easily the most popular. All students and their families are invited to our annual year-end holiday party and the families also have an open invitation to visit the Conservancy and Monkey Jungle (as our guests). We also seek to widen the social networks of the students by encouraging interactions with our volunteers and staff members at the zoological park.
To view media articles on the intellectually disabled youth programs Click Here.