Becky Payne

Summer Group Programs Update

The first official day of Summer is June 20 when the summer solstice occurs, but it is already starting to warm up and feel like summer.  Nature’s Edge is currently planning to hold summer groups with special considerations in light of COVID-19 to ensure the safety of our participants and staff. We are following CDC guidelines including sticking to small groups, screening for symptoms, frequent hand washing, wearing face shields, and distancing between participants. We have extended previous registration deadlines.

“Meet Me at the Reading Tree”: Struggling readers will participate in outdoor activities around the ranch including visits to the reading tree focused on hearing, decoding words, recognizing sight words, understanding word and text meanings, and reading with expression.

  • Ages:5-9
  • Cost/dates: $225 for 6 sessions on June 23,26,29, and July1,2,6
  • Time: 10-11:30

Active Outdoor Adventurers: Participants will engage in outdoor activities while learning about social skills including taking turns, group collaboration, and following directions.

  • Ages: 3-7
  • Cost/dates: $150 for 4 sessions on June 23, 26, 30, and July 3
  • Time: 8:00-9:00 am

‘Improving our Independence’: Participants will engage in activities designed to promote independence with age related changes including adaptive equipment education for bathing/dressing, energy conservation, kitchen/community mobility, strength and endurance, and fall prevention.

  • Ages: Adults 50 and older
  • Cost/dates: $150 for 4 sessions on June 25, July 2, 9, and 16
  • Time: 8:30-10:00 am

‘Stable’ Life Skills: Offered as two groups based on various age ranges, participants will learn various life skills activities.

Group 1: Participants will engage in ranch and nature based activities with emphasis on time management, goal planning, social participation, pre-vocational and vocational skills

  • Ages: 13-17 years
  • Cost/dates $225 for 6 sessions on June 23, 26,30, July 2,7, and 10
  • Time: 10:00 – 11:30 a.m.

Group 2: Participants who are able to complete some daily life routines and are looking to transition to group or independent living settings will learn life skills including time management, money management, goal setting, social participation, cooking, and household management.

  • Ages: 18-30 years
  • Cost/dates: $225 for 6 sessions on July 28,31, and August 4,7,11, and 14
  • Time: 10:00 – 11:30 a.m.

‘Learning Social Skills on the Ranch’: Offered as two groups based on various age ranges, participants will learn various social skills and activities. Program activities use nature and ranch animals to focus on social skills including eye contact, greetings, making requests, turn taking in conversation, expressing feelings and paying attention to nonverbal communication.

Group 1

  • Ages: 13-18 years
  • Cost/dates: $150 for 4 sessions on Jul 21,23,28, and 30
  • Time: 10-11:30 am

Group 2:

  • Ages: 7-12 years.
  • Cost/dates: $150 for 4 sessions on August 4,6,11, and 13
  • Time: 10:00 – 11:30 a.m.

‘Fun with Picky Eaters’: Participants who demonstrate difficulty with various food textures and tastes will interact with new foods and peers. Ranch animals will provide fun motivation.

  • Ages: 2-5
  • Cost/dates: $150 for five sessions on August 3, 4,5,10, and 11
  • Time: 8:00-9:00


Excited for Spring!

Excited for Spring!

All of us at Nature’s Edge Therapy Center are getting excited for spring!  While the first official day for spring is not until March 19, 2020, we are celebrating early by sharing our upcoming exciting events we have for everyone in our community!  We hope that the snow melts before this year’s spring and summer events, but we are here to celebrate with all of you snow, rain, or shine!  All events are now listed on our website under the Nature’s Edge calendar, providing additional information as needed.  If you have any questions regarding our upcoming events, please call us at 715-859-6670 or send us an e-mail!  We look forward to seeing you out at the ranch!

March 2020

  • March 9 – Special Education PTA Resource Fair and Fun Day (Eau Claire, WI)

April 2020

  • April 24 – Free Screening Day at Nature’s Edge Therapy Center

    This event is free and available to the public!  All interested individuals are encouraged to call and schedule ahead for a free 30-minute screening appointment for speech and/or occupational therapy services to address any potential concerns.  Speech pathologists provide assistance with: hearing, swallowing, feeding, stuttering, voice, articulation, assistive technology, memory, social skills, reading, and writing and language.  Occupational therapists provide assistance with: attention span, arousal level, sensory and processing skills, emotional regulation, fine and gross motor skills, upper body range of motion, pre-employment, and daily living activities.

May 2020

  • 11th Annual Disabilities Resource Fair (Monticello, MN)
  • Registration Due Date for ‘Summer Fun for Children’ group: May 20, 2020

June 2020

  • Summer Learning Groups and ‘Reminiscing on the Farm’ Program starts!
    • ‘Reminiscing on the Farm’ (ROTF) Program is hosted on our 65-acre ranch, inviting our community friends in surrounding regional senior care facilities to participate in a multi-sensory and social outing experience that awakens and elicits fond past memories to share.  ROTF is hosted every Wednesday from 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. starting June 3 and running through September 9.  Regional facilities are invited to contact us and schedule a date to participate!  This popular program is largely funded by a generous grant from Bader Philanthropies!
    • Summer Learning Groups Out-of-Doors:
      • “Meet Me at the Reading Tree”: Struggling readers will be actively engaged in outdoor and equine activities to focus on the tasks of hearing, decoding words, recognizing sight words, understanding word and text meanings, and reading with expression.  The barn, forest paths, river, pond, garden, – and of course, the Reading Tree will be learning sites for readers.  All participants must be accompanied by an adult and is designed for children ages 5-9.  Cost per participant: $225.  Time: 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
      • Active Outdoor Adventurers: Outdoor hands-on learning about nature, earth, and environmental activities and play in a social group program.  Emphasis will be placed on following directions, turn taking, and collaborating to complete hands-on learning and physical activity outside.  This program is designed for children ages 3 – 7 years.  All participants must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Cost per participant: $150. Time: 8:00 – 9:00 a.m.
      • ‘Improving our Independence’: Learn how to become more independent throughout aging. Education will be provided on energy conservation, kitchen/community mobility, and adaptive equipment for dressing/bathing to become more independent or continue our independence safely. Group members will participate in education of fall prevention and how to incorporate exercises to maintain strength or gain strength to carry over for home use while enjoying our beautiful nature environment.   This program is designed for adults ages 50 years and older. Cost per participant: $150. Time: 8:30 – 10:00 a.m.
      • ‘Stable’ Life Skills: Offered as two groups based on various age ranges, participants will learn various life skills activities.
        • Group 1: Designed for ages 13-17 years, participants will participate in ranch and nature based-activities while learning various life skill strategies to support increased independence.  Emphasis will be placed on time management, planning, goal setting, social participation, and team building skills necessary for pre-vocational and vocational skills.  All participants must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.  Cost per participant: $150. Time: 10:00 – 11:30 a.m.
        • Group 2: Designed for adults 18-30 years, participants must be able to complete some basic daily routines independently and may be looking to transition into living independently or within a group setting.  If appropriate, a parent or guardian may attend.  The group will participate in ranch and nature based-activities while learning various life skill strategies that support increased independence.  Emphasis on time management, money management, goal setting, social participation, cooking, household management, and team building skills necessary for young adults interested in working towards functional independence at home and/or vocational settings. Cost per participant: $150. Time: 10:00 – 11:30 a.m.
      • ‘Learning Social Skills on the Ranch’: Offered as two groups based on various age ranges, participants will learn various social skills and activities.
          • Group 1: Designed for ages 13-18 years.  Participants require accompaniment by a parent or guardian. Cost per participant: $150. Time: 10:00 – 11:30 a.m.
          • Group 2: Designed for ages 7-12 years.   Participants require accompaniment by a parent or guardian. Cost per participant: $150. Time: 10:00 – 11:30 a.m.
          • Outdoor activities integrated with nature and animals (including equine assisted activities) will be used to teach social skills. Eye contact, greetings, making requests, turn taking in conversation, expressing feelings and paying attention to nonverbal communication are themes that will be discussed and role-played. Homework is provided for practice in daily activities.
      • ‘Fun with Picky Eaters’: This program is designed for children ages 2 – 5 years who have difficulty with new textures and tastes.  The children must have some beginning language and ability to follow simple directives.  A parent or guardian is required to participate. This group will provide socialization and fun with foods and peers in a ranch setting with support from motivating animals during each session.  Therapy will include learning, playing, and interacting with a variety of foods and textures in a safe, rewarding environment. Cost per participant: $150. Time: 8:00 – 9:00 a.m.
  • Registration Due Date for the following Summer Learning groups: June 1, 2020
    • “Meet Me at the Reading Tree” (Dates: 6/23, 6/26, 6/29, 71, 7/2, 7/6)
    • Active Outdoor Adventurers (Dates: 6/23, 6/26, 6/30, 7/3)
    • ‘Improving our Independence’ (Dates: 6/25, 7/2, 7/9, 7/16)
    • ‘Stable’ Life Skills (Group 1) (Dates: 6/23, 6/26, 6/30, 7/2, 7/7, 7/10)

July 2020

  • Summer Learning Groups and ‘Reminiscing on the Farm’ Programs continue!
  • Registration Due Dates:
    • ‘Learning Social Skills on the Ranch’ (Group 1): July 1, 2020 (Dates: 7/21, 7/23, 7/28, 7/30)
    • ‘Stable’ Life Skills (Group 2): July 7, 2020 (Dates: 7/28, 7/31, 8/4, 8/7, 8/11, 8/14)
    •  ‘Fun with Picky Eaters’: July 13, 2020 (Dates: 8/3, 8/4, 8/5, 8/10, 8/11)
    •  ‘Learning Social Skills on the Ranch’ (Group 2): July 20, 2020 (Dates: 7/28, 7/31, 8/4, 8/7, 8/11, 8/14)

August 2020

  • Summer Learning Groups and ‘Reminiscing on the Farm’ Programs continue!

September 2020

  • Summer Learning Groups and ‘Reminiscing on the Farm’ Programs wrap-up!

Social Skills and Therapy

Social Skills and Therapy

Social interaction and engagement is a common lifelong skill that many people may take for granted.  Social skills are influenced by a variety of contexts, including geographical location, temporal dates, and societal, cultural, and familial expectations and beliefs.  Social skills can encompass written language, speech, verbal and nonverbal communication, and how we communicate and follow unwritten or unspoken expected social rules (known as pragmatics).  While many of us take for granted learning some of these social skills, there are many people who have difficulty understanding and learning the pragmatics that dictate our everyday lives and social interactions.  This often causes people that struggle to understand pragmatics to feel socially isolated, potentially further self-limiting their own social engagement and having difficulty participating in daily life activities and routines (Griswold, 2016). 

Speech and occupational therapy services help address deficits in social interaction, engagement, and overall communication to improve development of social relationships and engagement in daily life activities and routines.  Therapists work with individuals to develop social skills by utilizing strategies including: teaching how to interpret verbal and non-verbal communication, teaching how to identify and develop self-regulation of emotions, utilizing social scripts to navigate social scenarios, role-playing, teaching active listening and receptive language skills, social skills groups, and practicing turn-taking, reciprocal engagement, and joint attention (ASHA, n.d.; Foster, 2013; Griswold, 2016). If you or a loved one has trouble navigating daily routines, find communicating with others difficult, or feel confused or isolated when trying to understand another person’s perspective, you may benefit from therapy services addressing social communication and participation.  Call our office at (715)859-6670 or contact us via e-mail at to learn more about how targeted social skills development may benefit you or your loved one.

Brown and white horse with boy dressed in winter clothes standing next to horse outside in snow.

Therapy horse Callie practicing social skills with a Nature’s Edge friend.

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). (n.d.). Social Communication.
Foster, L. (2013). Occupational therapy’s role in mental health promotion, prevention, & intervention with children & youth: Social and emotional learning (SEL). School Mental Health Toolkit.  
Griswold, L. A. (2016). Promoting a student’s social interaction skills to enhance participation with peers. SIS Quarterly Practice Connections1(3), 4–6.

Is it just picky eating?!

Have you ever questioned if your child is just being a picky eater?  Do you have to prepare multiple meals in order to have everyone in your family eat?  Have you ever felt frustrated or overwhelmed that your child’s friends will eat anything, while your child refuses to eat certain foods or demonstrates brand loyalty preferences?  You are not alone.  And while it may just look like behavior, there may actually be other concerns that are causing your child to gag, spit out, or refuse foods.  What is actually happening, and does feeding therapy help?

Both speech and occupational therapists can address feeding and eating concerns, and often work together to assess the physical, emotional, behavioral, sensory, and social skills and habits that are involved with feeding and eating daily routines.  Feeding therapy involves a speech therapist or occupational therapist that looks at the various steps required for preparing and completing feeding and eating.  Age, developmental milestones, allergies, food sensitivities, gross and fine motor skills, self-feeding skills, oral motor skills, sensory motor skills, and typical feeding patterns, preferences, prior experience, and routines are all important factors that are analyzed by the therapist to determine and differentiate between anticipated, normal development patterns compared to unanticipated patterns of behavior that may be a concern for your infant or child.

Speech and occupational therapists are knowledgeable and well-trained on the typical developmental milestones from birth throughout adulthood, with specialized training and understanding of the incremental changes that occur from infancy to childhood.  Many children that demonstrate habits of a picky eater often have difficulty managing feeding on certain types of foods based on taste, texture, size, and the way the food is broken down and manipulated in their mouths before they ever even swallow.  Oral motor skills, meaning the way the muscles of the mouth and tongue work together to break down foods and swallow, require a high level of coordination, strength, and endurance that typically develops without someone ever thinking about this development occurring.  However, for many picky eaters, there is often an aspect regarding feeding that they find difficult to manage, whether it is taste, texture, the size, or how it moves inside their mouths.  When this break down occurs, our children refuse foods, and we often unintentionally reinforce this behavior by pressuring our children to eat and accept these foods.

So, what can we do if we cannot get our children to eat certain foods, and when we insist that they do they gag or refuse?  Well, what do our children do best? Play!  Yes, play is the most natural way to learn and try out new skills and reinforce desired behaviors!  Here are a few tips to try with your picky eater!

  • Use your fingers. Try finger painting with sauces, puddings, jello.  Allow your child to get messy and feel comfortable around new foods.
  • Through play, touch and explore the food. Poke. Kiss. Lick. Bite. If the child is uncertain he is ready to chew, let the child spit the food out.
  • Slowly encourage more exploration before letting the child refuse the food.
  • Provide a spot for the child to remove the uncertain food to know he or she is done with it. In therapy, we provide a cup or bowl and deem it the “all done” bowl.
  • Use positive reinforcement to encourage and facilitate participation in food exploration.
  • If the child refuses to sit at the table, start with food and sensory play on the floor, building trust to gain access to participating, and eventually eating, at the table.


While these are general tips and ideas for anyone to try with a child that may be a picky eater, there are many other issues that may occur that are causing your child to be unable to tolerate eating certain types of foods.  If you or a loved one has concerns regarding a child’s ability to eat, it is best to reach out to your pediatrician to discuss concerns related to feeding and eating.  Physicians often request referrals to specialists to help address concerns related to feeding and eating, including dietitians, nutritionists, speech therapists, and occupational therapists.  If you are a reader and have any questions regarding this blog, please contact us via e-mail at today!

The Therapeutic Benefits of Nature – How nature helps with therapy

Little girl in pink jumping into large puddle at end of hill, with house on top of hill.

Whether someone is a child or an adult, interactions with nature enhance overall health and well-being.  At Nature’s Edge Therapy Center, we believe that participating and engaging in nature is beneficial and vital for a person’s overall mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health.  As such, nature becomes an important aspect of how we provide our treatment services.  But what are the aspects of nature that benefit our patients (and ourselves) so much?

Young boy in dark shirt eating berry in front of vegetable and fruit garden.


Nature – A Perfect Balance

Nature provides a perfect balance of sensory experiences that stimulate our senses naturally, without overwhelming us, while promoting feelings of enhanced well-being.  Nature landscapes provide engaging environments for our many sensory systems, including sound, sight, touch, taste, smell, and movement.  While our playgrounds, stores, and movie theaters may provide engaging sights and sounds, these man-made environments often overstimulate or deprive us of certain senses our bodies rely on for the best interpretation of and engagement in what is going on around us.  Nature offers a balance of colors, smells, and sounds that produce an automatic calming response to our nervous systems, allowing us to feel relaxed and engaged in the present moment.  It provides a sense of calm and ease that both children and adults alike seek to experience.


Young girl in pink and young boy in green bending down to pet black pot-belly pig in green field.

Nature – The Right Environment

Nature provides the right type of environment to foster (and maintain) health and well-being.  For children, nature provides a perfectly balanced landscape to help them develop appropriate fine and gross motor skills, language skills, emotional regulation skills, and learn how to navigate social and cognitive skills.  Just by exploring and playing in nature, a child develops and engages their nervous system pathways. Their bodies learn how to interpret various sensations that improve strength, endurance, coordination and balance.  Without this exposure and engagement, a child does not learn how to self-modulate and control surrounding sensory information, making participation and mastery over daily life skills difficult.  When children are not given enough time to engage, move, and play in nature, we notice that these children may have difficulty focusing on daily life tasks, may not be able to express or understand their emotions or needs, may have a hard time staying engaged, and may not understand how to control themselves or how to interact with others.  This can also be true for adults, when deprived of the richness of nature.  Decreased mental and physical health and well-being are often reported for adults that do not get to spend adequate amounts of time engaged in nature.


At Nature’s Edge, we frequently hear reports from our program participants and patients that they are thankful for the opportunity to spend time out in nature.  Many patients that have not had previous success meeting therapy goals at indoor medical clinics have thrived under this model of care that incorporates the vast richness of nature.  Nature stimulates multiple senses simultaneously, providing as a direct result intentional engagement and presence that is both motivating and vital for success in therapy.

Check out these photos of our therapy clinic and how motivating nature is to promote overall health and well-being!











Come Run With Us! 2nd Annual “Running the Edge” 5K Trail Run/Walk — Sept. 14, 2019

Less than three months out — “Running the Edge” at Nature’s Edge on September 14

If you love the exhilaration and challenge of running through field and woods and up and down hills on a crisp Fall morning, this 5K race is for you!  But it’s more than just that . . .

If you love a professionally timed race where you’re running for place or if you love a run/walk where you choose your pace and just enjoy being out in nature, this event is for you! But it’s still more than that . . .

If you love giving a helping hand to others who have very real needs, this 5k run is especially for you!

Calling all runners, walkers and teams of all ages!

Please register for the “Running the Edge” 5K Trail Run/Walk which takes off on Saturday morning, September 14, at 9 a.m.! Here’s the link to the online event registration site:

A 1/2 Mile Kids Fun Run for runners 12 years old and younger takes places at 8:30 a.m. on the same morning.  Register here:  All participants receive a race swag bag and T-shirt, and all finishers receive a medal.

“Running the Edge” — Hosted on the Nature’s Edge 65-acre ranch

  • We host the “Running the Edge” event right at Nature’s Edge because this 5K course that runs the perimeter of the Nature’s Edge ranch is an unusual, exceptional, breathtaking (yes, those hills can take your breath away!) and exhilarating  run.
  • We also host it onsite at Nature’s Edge because it’s a race with a great purpose!  “Running the Edge” 5K Run/Walk is all about benefitting patients with disabilities who receive therapy at Nature’s Edge.  Every registration fee and all business sponsorships beyond the expenses of the race are designated to therapy scholarships for Nature’s Edge patients with financial need.  That means that patients who need therapy but can’t afford it have the financial obstacles removed through scholarships and are able to receive therapy.
  • We host “Running the Edge” at the Nature’s Edge ranch because when you’re out here to run or watch the 5K and Kids Fun Run, you also have the opportunity to see the Nature’s Edge facilities and terrain, to meet some of our staff, therapists and therapy animals, and to get a feel for the therapy work that we do.

It was Nature’s Edge staff that first dreamed up “Running the Edge.”  Several of our staff are runners who compete in area events. Recognizing the potential for a great cross-country trail run on the Nature’s Edge ranch and the possibility to grow an event that could raise funds to help patients overcome financial barriers, they did the work to plan and launch the 5K, which included carving out much of the 5K trail!  September 14th is our 2nd annual run.  We’d love to see at least 100 runners out to support this great cause!  Come on out and run with us!

All runners are encouraged to consider increasing the fund-raising reach of the 5K event by seeking pledges from friends and acquaintances for “Running the Edge.”  Pledge sheets will be mailed out to all registrants and are also available on the Nature’s Edge website.

Finish line photos will be taken and metals awarded to all finishers.  Prizes for the fastest male and female runner, as well as medals for age categories and the fastest two teams will be awarded.  The fastest boy and girl from the ½ Mile Kids Fun Run will also receive prizes.  The registration desk opens at 7 a.m. on race day and same-day registration will be available.  An awards ceremony will be held at 10:15 a.m.  The Nature’s Edge barn will be open with several therapy animals and horses in stalls, a DJ will be onsite, and Surge healthy shakes will be available for purchase.

Mark September 14 on your calendar for “Running the Edge,” and let’s meet up at Nature’s Edge for a great run!


H is for Hippos?! Exploring Hippotherapy

Have you ever wondered what in the world hippos have to do therapy?! I mean, we are talking about “hippotherapy” after all, right?  While the term makes it sound as though hippos are receiving therapy, the word could not mean anything further from it.  Hippotherapy does not involving hippos, nor does it involve counseling services.

Hippotherapy derives from the Latin word “hippo”, which means horse.  Wait…what?  So you mean hippotherapy is actually “horse therapy”, like riding horses?  The truth is hippotherapy is vastly different than just riding a horse or adaptive riding!  Hippotherapy is a very effective, medically skilled treatment strategy that can only be utilized by trained speech, occupational, and physical therapies for a patient’s plan of care.  Patients that experience hippotherapy strategies during therapy sessions do not need to have any prior experience riding a horse!  In fact, the more novel the experience is to the patient, the better the results can be.

So what is it about this experience with the horse that makes this treatment strategy so unique and powerful?  The horse, an incredibly powerful animal, is specially trained and schooled by horse handlers to generate purposeful movement.  Under the direction of the trained therapist, the horse handler directs the horse to manipulate their movement, addressing problems experienced by the patient and assisting in generating long-term functional outcomes.

But how?  The horse has a similarly structured pelvis as an adult human (just positioned differently), replicating the movement that a person would normally experience while walking without requiring the person to complete any standing or walking.

The horse’s movement simulates the movements a person needs to walk, but the horse is able to provide these movement impulses to a person astride a horse at a higher interval rate while remaining rhythmic, repetitive, symmetrical, and predictable, allowing up to ~3000 steps within 30 minutes (much more movement than walking exercises or therapy balls).  By manipulating the horse’s movements, a therapist can address multiple treatment area concerns for a patient related to both the human and environmental systems.  In short, hippotherapy is used as a treatment strategy to influence how a patient experiences his/her surrounding environment and to    improve/organize the patient’s own human systems, including motor, musculoskeletal, nervous, limbic, respiratory, circulatory, and sensory systems.

Such an amazing and powerful animal cannot be caught doing any horse play; this job is serious work!  Check out pictures of  Valebu (a Norwegian Fjord) and Svali (an Icelandic) hard at work helping our therapy friends below!


For more questions on who may benefit from using hippotherapy, please follow our link: