Therapy Donkey Helps A Special Needs Girl Speak Again

Some people believe the whole therapy animal thing is out of control, but if you think about it the "therapy" most of these animals provide involves calming and comforting a person, so just about any animal can provide therapy.

Just ask little Amber Austwick and she'll tell you- a donkey makes a fine therapy animal, and her hoofed friend Shock from The Donkey Sanctuary in Birmingham, England actually helped her speak again.

In 2011 Amber was born prematurely and couldn't breathe, so doctors gave her a tracheotomy that left her mute due to vocal chord scarring. Amber was also born with cerebral palsy, making the first few years of her life a struggle for the poor little girl.

But then she met Shocks the donkey, who changed her life with his gentle charm:

"She struggled to sit up and showed no signs of crawling 'til very late on," Julian Austwick, Amber's father, told The Dodo. "A friend mentioned The Donkey Sanctuary to Tracy [Amber's mother] and told her the donkeys can give therapy to additional needs children, so we decided to try it."

It was Amber's first time meeting a therapy animal — and, as it happened, Amber was Shocks's first patient. And when he met Amber, the connection was instantaneous.

"It was fairly immediate to see they had a bond together, as they were both so gentle with each other," Austwick said. "Shocks would lower his head to her and would allow her to hold him around his neck. It was scary for us, as parents, as he was so big compared to little Amber, but they really seemed smitten!"

Finally, when Amber turned 3, she was old enough for another surgery to make it possible for her to talk — but it would take practice.

She still hadn't said a word when she went to visit Shocks one day in November 2013. After taking a ride with him and getting ready to leave the sanctuary to go home, she hugged the donkey and said, "I love you, Shocky."

So there you have it- donkeys actually make pretty great therapy animals, and unlike a dogs or cats you get to ride them too!

-Via The Dodo

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As a father of a non-verbal autistic child, I am intrigued with this therapy animals idea. It's not for a lack of trying. My child tries to speak but it all comes out as gibberish. I don't know if this could work, but I may give it a go.

But not donkeys! I don't have the space for them, and living in the middle of a city, it's impractical. Maybe a hamster?
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