— -- A California teen with autism has found companionship and encouragement in his two "best friends" -- pygmy goats Zephyr and Jasper -- his mother told ABC News today.
"He is just a big animal lover," Alicia Seaton, the mother of Jackson, 16, told ABC News today. "As with all animals, they don’t require you to do anything but love them and care for them and they love you back. And it’s unconditional."
Seaton said that the two goats have motivated Jackson to come out of his shell and talk more. He previously struggled with expressing himself verbally.
"Now he is motivated to talk about his goats. His speech teacher has noticed that he is a lot more verbal."
Kathy Griffith, owner of Griffiths Pygmies, raised and trained Jackson's goats, and told ABC News today that she has trained a total of six goats to work with people with autism.
"They're therapy goats. The goats are oftentimes smarter than the dogs are," Griffith said. "They’re companion animals."
Griffith said that she has two "special ed" kids, and that she is passionate about using animals to encourage kids with special needs. "[Kids with autism] are kids, special needs kids are kids, they want love," she said.
She added that Jackson's goats have bonded with the teen.
"He is a piano prodigy, but those social skills are lacking, so he literally will sit there with Jasper, and he holds Jasper's head and Jasper won’t move," Griffith said of Jackson. "When he starts talking, Jasper just sits there listening.
"It has given companionship," Griffith added. "It has also helped him dramatically with socialization."