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Boy, 11, with autism running socially-distant marathon over a week for charity

Daniel Shiels’s parents said they wanted to show that children with autism ‘can excel in different areas’.

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Daniel Shiels, 11, is raising money for an autism charity (Michael Shiels/PA)

Daniel Shiels, 11, is raising money for an autism charity (Michael Shiels/PA)

Daniel Shiels, 11, is raising money for an autism charity (Michael Shiels/PA)

An “inspiring” 11-year-old boy with autism is running a socially-distant marathon over the course of a week to raise money for charity during the coronavirus lockdown.

Daniel Shiels, from Kilkeel, Northern Ireland, has severe autism and learning difficulties and has already run 20.6 miles in the past four days.

His efforts, all carried out within social distancing rules, have so far raised £487 for Run For Autism H.A.N.D, a charity based in Newry.

Daniel’s 13-year-old brother Michael and their parents, Bernarde and Michael Shiels, are running the marathon alongside him.

Speaking to the PA news agency, Daniel’s father said: “Exercise is very important to us as a family, for mental health and getting the fresh air.”

Run For Autism H.A.N.D is a local charity in Newry.

The funds raised by Daniel will help autism and learning disability groups after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Daniel has always enjoyed hiking.

At the age of five, he climbed the highest mountain in Northern Ireland, Slieve Donard, with a broken arm.

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Daniel with his family (Michael Shiels/PA)

Daniel with his family (Michael Shiels/PA)

Daniel with his family (Michael Shiels/PA)

“We just say, ‘We’re going up the mountain’ and he’s at the door waiting to go into the car,” Mr Shiels said.

Although Daniel is non-verbal, he has good receptive language and no mobility issues so enjoys running as a way to burn off steam.

Daniel’s father noted: “It’s not always plain sailing, but we try to get him out to show him that we can achieve these things by just putting a bit of effort in.”

Michael, a sales manager, and Bernarde, who works in catering, both love to run in their spare time.

Through Daniel’s marathon, they wanted to show that children with autism “can excel in different areas”.

While lockdown has been a struggle for many, Daniel’s father said: “The thing about families with special needs, we’re somewhat socially isolated all year round.”

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Sean Quinn, founder of the charity, called Daniel “a magical wee man”.

“He doesn’t realise it, but he’s inspiring so many young people to do the same,” he told PA.

Daniel is due to complete the remaining 5.6 miles of his marathon in the coming days.

Because a marathon is 26.2 miles, he is planning to donate £26.20 himself when he finishes.

Donations can be made at justgiving.com/crowdfunding/isolatedrunner

PA