Charlie is 15 years old and has been a visitor to our donkey assisted therapy centre in Ivybridge for five years. His mum, Jill, and nan, Carol, brought him along to the centre after he had been struggling to cope at school. Charlie has autism, which affects his ability to interact socially, and he also battles with anxiety which had made him very withdrawn.
His cousin Luke, who has Down’s syndrome, also attends the centre and takes part in riding therapy. When we first met Charlie, he was quite shy. Being older than Luke and most of the children, he preferred to just hang back and watch his little cousin spend time with the donkeys.
Staff were concerned that Charlie might be missing out, but it soon became apparent that, for Charlie, the best part was actually just being around the donkeys.
“I love to watch the donkeys and observe their behaviour. They are so calm and relaxed — they make me feel relaxed. I admire them, and think they are beautiful.” Charlie.
Quickly, Charlie began to make friends — not only with the staff but with the donkeys too. He felt accepted and, his confidence grew and he really began to open up. So much so that he now helps with fundraising events, including running his own stall selling his nan’s knitted snowmen, all to raise money for the donkeys.
Jill, Charlie’s mum, says, “Who would have thought that our Charlie, who had completely shut everyone out, would change so much! He has let the staff and donkeys into ‘his circle’, and it has totally changed his world. I don’t know what we would have done without the donkeys.”