Special needs children tour fair

Argen Duncan

During his field trip to the Roosevelt County Fair, Portales third-grader Nathan Rose said he was able to pet every kind of animal, except a chicken. He wasn’t allowed to pet chickens because they bite, he explained.

Nathan also helped with County Commissioner Bill Cathey’s rope and whip trick performance for the group.

“And my favorite part was when everybody cheered for me,” he said.

About 60 special education students from Dora and Portales took their own tour of the fair Wednesday morning, and organizers said the trip gave them exposure to the fair and animals they might not have otherwise had. They also received passes to attend the special needs pet show and horse exhibition later than night.

Caprock Veterinary Clinic and McDonald’s helped sponsor the activities.

Wednesday was Special Needs Day at the fair.

Special Needs Day Superintendent Becky Walker said many of the students don’t get to go to a fair, especially since crowds can be disturbing for them. Also, she said, many live in town and haven’t experienced animals, which Walker believes is important for all children.

“I just feel like they need to understand about animals and learn not to be afraid of animals … and also learn to respect animals,” Walker said.

In addition, she said the students who entered items in the special needs craft show were able to see their work and ribbons on display during the field trip.

Freshman Edward Alonzo said he grew up around animals, but enjoyed being around the younger children on the trip.

Dora first-grader Kaci Heflin said her favorite part of the morning was seeing the photographs because they were pretty. She also saw a kind of chicken she had never encountered before.

Kaci’s mother, Cheryl Heflin, said she thought the field trip was a wonderful experience. She mentioned the opportunity to see the animals and their size and to hear the sounds they made.

“Instead of just reading about them in a book, they get to see them up close and personal, and getting to pet certain ones, that was kind of neat,” Cheryl Heflin said.

Local 4-H and FFA members told the students about preparing to show animals and allowed them to hold or pet the creatures.

Dora special education teacher Susie Thomas said the students learned vocabulary, where meat comes from and safety around animals. Special education students are often pulled out of fun activities at school to give them extra help with academics, she said.

“A lot of the kids don’t get to do the experiences that other kids do,” Thomas said. “And they need the chance to get out and experience, because education’s a lot more than just in the classroom.”