A family property passed down over three generations is being turned into a new opportunity for children with special needs to develop social skills.
Ken Brown inherited Stinnett Hill, off South Lee Highway, two years ago.
“This is land that my grandfather had. In 1941, he bought it. When mother was 7 years old, her mother died of tuberculosis and the life insurance policy bought this land,” Brown said.
The property still has an outdoor fireplace built by Brown’s grandfather 60 years ago.
Clearing brush and overgrowth on the property has been Brown’s hobby for the past two years. His work uncovered not only the fireplace, but also some stone benches.
The goal is to create a place for those who have been diagnosed with ADHD, autism or Asperger’s syndrome to come and work on social and communication skills by interacting with farm animals.
A dog, chickens and rabbits are the inaugural flock for Brown’s project. He plans to incorporate baby goats in the near future.
“The first thing I want them (the students) to do is be able to relate to something,” Brown said.
Plans for a miniature duck pond and a rock and dirt re-creation of the Lookout Mountain area are all in the works.
“This has been my labor of love,” Brown said.
Brown said many children with ADHD, autism or Asperger’s “lack social skills.”
“They have trouble relating to other kids. They may say the wrong thing. They might act strange, so other kids avoid them,” Brown said.
Brown said the endeavor would teach children how to care for the animals and pet them. He said this helps students learn to put others’ needs before their own.
Starting out, Brown plans to partner with the Chattanooga Autism Center and psychologists in Chattanooga for referrals for those who would benefit from the experience. Brown also hopes to partner with others in Cleveland in connecting with students.
His experience using a farm atmosphere and animals to help children with ADHD began while he was living in Northwest Georgia.
“Just to kind of give them experience working with animals. A kid will relate to an animal before they will relate to a human,” Brown said.
Brown also created opportunities for the children he worked with to develop hobbies.
“Some of these kids just need to get involved in something,” Brown said.
Brown said he is “not in favor” of medicating children with ADHD.
“My goal is to get all the kids off of them. It’s a coping problem with ADHD. As long as they realize they have it and learn to cope with it … then they are OK,” Brown said.
Brown moved to Cleveland from the Chattanooga area.
“I wanted a little quieter town,” Brown said.
He said he would like to work with children from the city giving them an opportunity to be interact with animals.
Brown is a former Hamilton County elementary school teacher. He later became a mentor in the Big Brothers program and then a Cub Scout leader.
“About a third of them were ADHD, and that’s when I really found out [enough to ask] ‘What is this thing they call ADHD?’” Brown said.
Later as a foster parent he again worked with ADHD children. For those students, baseball was how they connected with others. He has also worked as a case manager and house parent.
Brown can be contacted by phone at 760-7608 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.