National & International

How farming saves young autistic workers from isolation

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A group of autistic young farmworkers says the job has saved them from a potential life of isolation and boredom.

Pennyhooks Farm, near Shrivenham in Oxfordshire, is a fully operational beef farm that exclusively engages people on the autism spectrum to work there.

Matt Belcher, 24, says before starting at the farm, he would hide in his room for days playing repetitive video games. Now he is one of Pennyhooks Farm’s key workers, managing the care of hundreds of chickens on the farm.

Lydia Otter is a third-generation farmer at Pennyhooks. The former special needs teacher first invited autistic children to the farm more than 30 years ago and says: “Some of these young people I’ve known for almost 30 years, it’s just a wonderful privilege to watch them grow up.”

Murray, 18, is the son of BBC Radio 2, DJ Ken Bruce. He is non-verbal and communicates via an electronic letter board. His main duty is caring for the donkeys on the farm.

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