We've been busy since moving to the Ranch and I'm giving you an update on our progress, what we've learned about ourselves and how living with the animals is impacting all of our lives.
The last few months have been busy for our family. In June we took a huge leap and bought a ranch near the Seattle area. I’m not sure what exactly led us to take this momentous leap but, needless to say it has been life changing. Our experiences over the past year led up to this change and I believe it is directly tied to my passion to support children who are deafblind and their families. Here’s why.
As many of you can relate, the pandemic has been challenging, to say the least. Our kids have been on screens way too much. They went months without seeing their friends – much to my kids' disagreement I believe that chatting online doesn’t count. Virtual learning worked well for our kids, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t hard. It’s difficult to quantify the learning loss that occurred during Covid.
Personally, I hit burnout in the middle of the pandemic – like I mentioned in my intro to LOI blog. That burnout led to some good though. Professionally I founded LOI, which is why you are reading this right now.
As well, for our family, however, I had this underlying feeling that we needed to make a change. In April, Todd and I took Hunter and Dalton to a dude ranch in Montana for a family vacation and that’s when the seed of owning our own ranch was planted.
Todd and I both noted how cool it was to see the kids around horses - out in the fresh air. We knew that horseback riding wouldn’t be easy for Dalton because of his Usher syndrome, but he was up for the challenge. He was all smiles on his horse, Lil Joe, and loved every minute of the entire trip. As did we all.
When we came back to reality we couldn’t get this positive experience out of our minds. Then it dawned on us, we were meant to buy our own ranch!
Since then it’s been a whirlwind. In addition to buying the ranch and moving, we’ve bought 4 horses. We have a wonderful horse trainer helping us. We have plans to soon add alpacas, pigs, chickens, and goats – all to be protected by our new guardian puppies Juno and Athena. They are so cute!
So, you can understand why I was delayed in getting a new blog out. I was trying to make sense of all these exciting changes in our lives. I’m still not quite sure what all of this means but I know in my heart that we bought this ranch so that we could help children who are deafblind and their families.
In a few short months, being around horses has given Dalton increased self-confidence and self-awareness. It has helped with his balance, sensory processing disorder, and ADHD - just to name a few things. The horses have really helped me too. It’s been over 20 years since we received the Usher diagnosis, but I still have bad days and having horses and animals around has given me new challenges and helped me to learn more about myself. Sometimes I’ll just go down to the barn and see and be with the horses.
As I said, I’m not sure where this is going to lead but I know that buying this ranch was what we were meant to do. I know this is not only something we did for our family but that we will find ways to share our ranch with families of children who are deafblind, in some way - perhaps a camp and/or a more structured equine program for children with sensory loss.
I’d like to ask for your help in a few ways if you are so inclined:
1. Do you or someone you know, have knowledge of the benefits of equine therapy/riding for children who are deafblind? Is there research out there that I should know about or people I should be speaking with to learn more? What areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum should I consider incorporating into an equine program.
2. Did my story of Dalton working with horses resonate with your personal experience, either as a family of a child who is deafblind or as someone who works with families? If so, I’d love to hear your story.
3. As I continue to work on these plans, are you someone who has an interest in helping me in some capacity build out this dream? If so, I’d love to hear from you.
You can imagine this is scary and exciting all at the same time. This year has been incredibly difficult. Like so many other families, our family has had to be resilient and strong to get through it. Having our ranch has helped me and our family in ways that I cannot describe. I don’t know what the future will hold for Infinity Ranch, but I can’t wait to share it with fellow families in some way in the future. This journey has just begun but it’s far from over. More to come…
Lanya (Lane) McKittrick is the Chair of the Board of the Usher Syndrome Coalition, founder of the Hear See Hope Foundation, and deafblind education researcher and founder of Lane of Inquiry. Lane received her PhD in Special Education at the University of Northern Colorado. Her research, advocacy and family support work are rooted in her personal experience as a mom to four sons, including two who have Usher Syndrome, the leading genetic cause of deafblindness.