04/22/2014 09:38 EDT | Updated 06/22/2014 05:59 EDT

Therapy snakes help special needs kids

A pair of Burmese pythons have found a new home — and new, unlikely jobs — as therapy animals on a farm outside Whitby. 

Nova’s Ark in Brooklin, Ont. recently added the three-metre long, 18-kilogram snakes to its menagerie, where they help special needs students learn about nature, themselves and each other. 

“There's no way you could replicate this in a classroom,” said teacher June Cook of Uxbridge Secondary School, whose students recently paid a visit. 

“It would be impossible to learn from a book what we have covered … with regard to social skills and just getting along together and the ability to function in society in general.” 

The snakes were both found in B.C., one on a golf course, the other in a campground. Unlike anacondas or rock pythons, Burmese pythons are very gentle. 

For some students, some of whom were non-verbal before coming to the farm, the encounter brings out their personalities. 

“At first I was kind of nervous, but I kind of got over my fear … laughs,” said student Lorelei Adams.