Daniel Jaicks had one thing on his mind when he turned 16. Mowing some lawns.
The boy with autism had asked for a lawnmower for his birthday. Having obliged his only wish, secretly stashing away a Husqvarna in the garage, Daniel’s mother, Joanna Jaicks, offered to invite friends and family to a birthday celebration with gifts and games at the local trampoline park. But Daniel had another plan in mind.
Instead of accepting the gifts for himself, Daniel asked his birthday guests to bring something for the animals of South Carolina’s Charleston Animal Society.
“We’re very proud of him for making that choice!” Joanna Jaicks told People.
Daniel participates in a life skills group that meets to work on social acuity and has on more than one occasion made their meetings at the Charleston Animal Society. There, the teen participants were able to work with animals and craft some cat toys, all the while building communicative foundations for further growth.
The various benefits and points of interest to both psychological and physiological researchers of placing children with autism in an environment with animals are almost too numerous to list, from easing anxiety and washing away physically debilitating fears, to establishing bonds that modern science still has yet to fully define, according to Psychology Today. Stories of children emerging from a protective shell are not characteristic of all individuals with autism, but there are plenty to provide evidence.
The experience at the animal shelter really left an impression on Daniel, who, after all the candles were out, raised a total of $95 for the shelter, along with 170 pounds of dog food and assorted treats and toys.
“What an awesome gift for the animals,” the Charleston Animal Society posted on April 13. “Thank you Daniel, you are a kind and loving young man.”
Joanna is quite smitten with her son, of course, and also understands the encouragement and confidence that working around animals provides Daniel, as a boy with autism.
“Especially in how to properly interact with dogs upon first encountering them,” she says. “We also have 1 dog and 4 cats at home. Daniel has been around animals since he was born.”