I’ve never been much of an animal person. I certainly never got the horsey types. And donkeys are just their poor relative, aren’t they? I mean, cute to stop and feed at the roadside in Donegal, but not an animal I had much interest in.
Then, I had a son with special needs. Turns out there’s a whole charity just for rescued donkeys and providing donkey assisted therapy for children with additional needs. Even then, I wasn’t convinced but last summer Daniel was having real issues out and about with noise or places that were busy in particular. He would refuse to get out of the buggy or car and was really upset. I decided to start taking him to the summer drop in sessions they do and despite being quite scared when he first went on the donkey, by the time he finished Daniel was a foot taller. I saw confidence in these sessions that I’d never seen before and as the winter months went on, he used to ask to go from pretty much the day after he’d last been.
The sessions on Wednesday afternoons also allow siblings to ride and Rory has been riding since the start of the summer and also loves it. They do a wee curriculum with them both – Rory is learning colours at present and Daniel is learning about different concepts using donkeys as the central point so today was the concept of weather and seasons (sun and rain and where the donkeys stay when the weather is different and the difference between wet and dry). They use Makaton sign language and it’s great at bringing Daniel’s speech and learning along.
I’ve said a few times about how Daniel’s extra chromosome actually makes our life so much more interesting and it’s true. Fortnightly donkey assisted therapy. And it’s free (although we make donations to them, and here’s a link to their website if you’re interested https://www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk/visit-us/belfast ). Our lives really are enriched by this therapy and it’s a real highlight of our lives.