Introducing Animal-Assisted Intervention for Special Education in Integrated Farming System

Teh Xian Zhi, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Malaysia
Zalena Abdul Aziz, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Malaysia
Nooriati Taib, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Malaysia
Published: November 27, 2020

Citation: Zhi, T. X., Aziz, Z. A., & Taib, N. (2020). Introducing Animal-Assisted Intervention for Special Education in Integrated Farming System. IAFOR Journal of Education: Studies in Education, 8(4).


Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopment disorder that affects an individual’s social skills, communication skills and repetitive behaviours. Due to these factors, an autism learning environment has to be purposely-built to cater for the sensory needs of these learners. In special education practice, animal-assisted intervention has become popular over recent years to this end. This study aims to analyse the practice of animal-assisted intervention in an autism learning environment with the aid of a sustainable system called an integrated farming system. The study is conducted using mixed methods, involving content analysis of the technical information and detailed drawings of an integrated farming system, as well as an online survey about the implementation of the intervention in autism classrooms via such a system. Our findings show that the technical drawings for implementing an integrated farming system in the built environment represent an architectural intervention. The online survey also shows positive feedback from experts in autism services. The study concludes that animal-assisted autism learning is a promising future model for special education. It also suggests that an integrated farming system is a potential nature-based livestock farming solution to include animals in a farm-based autism educational setting. This could serve as a reference and basis for future architects or researchers to extend the research or implement animal-assisted interventions in real practices.


animal-assisted intervention, autism learning environment, autism spectrum disorder, integrated farming system, special education