Dolphin-assisted therapy (DAT) has grown in popularity over the past decade. A substantial number of individuals with neurological disorders have been treated and have shown significant improvements with this treatment method. This fun, and creative, approach has provided patients with another option for therapy. DAT allows the patient to interact directly with dolphins, providing both therapy and reward to the patient. Despite some questionable results, there is overwhelming evidence defending dolphin therapy as a reliable means for treatment of individuals with various neurological disorders (http://www.dolphin-inspirations.com/dolphin-therapy.html).
There are 67 species of dolphins. All are classified under a group of mammals referred to as Cetaceans (http:teacher.scholastic.com/dolphin/about2.htm). Dolphins are an intriguing mammal, and can have a profound effect on humans due to their mannerisms and appearance. These animals are able to trigger an emotional response in patients, as well as sense medical issues and pain of the patients. The patients who have been reported to have benefited the most from DAT are those affected by cerebral palsy, autism, Down’s syndrome, chronic pain, cancer patients and attention deficit disorder (ADD) (http://www.dolphin-inspirations.com/dolphin-therapy.html).
DAT is used with a variety of age groups, but the majority of those seeking this therapy are between the ages of 2-13 (http://dolphinassistedtherapy.com). Similarly, children have shown the best results from this therapy. The conditions that have been shown to improve are attention span, coordination, communication, emotional response, confidence and self esteem (Bourne, 1992). The therapists that incorporate the use of dolphins with their patients seek to improve movement, behavior and other specific skills. The children involved with this therapy option are believed to be more responsive to therapy and more motivated to complete the desired task at hand. DAT has numerous positive attributes in that it allows parents to feel more comfortable with the therapy, the children are more motivated and they are introduced to the exercises in a positive atmosphere. It is a winning combination for all involved.
DAT has been shown to improve many cognitive, physical and social aspects of some children’s daily life, but a full recovery is not to be expected (http: //triggerdolphin.tripod. com/DAT.html). DAT is not recognized as a cure for diseases or neurological disorders. In fact, only 30% of patients involved in dolphin-assisted therapy show improvements upon completion of the program (http: //triggerdolphin.tripod. com/DAT.html). Despite this percentage, DAT programs provide fun and exciting therapeutic treatment for children with diverse neurological disorders.
The majority of dolphin-assisted therapy programs are located along coasts in Australia, Florida, the Bahamas and Hawaii. The general patient populations for these programs are children with developmental disabilities. If one is interested in this form of therapy, there are several different facilities in the United States: Island Dolphin Care in Florida, Joan Ocean Dolphin Connection in Kona, Hawaii, Water Planet in Panama City Beach, Florida, Dolphin Research Center in the Florida Keys, and Upledger Institute in Freeport, Bahammas. To become a part of this dolphin experience, a patient gnereally must be at least three years old, and the patient’s history must be provided. Some of these programs also require the patient to submit a video of his/her activity prior to entering the program so the coordinator knows a patient’s functional ability, and the therapist can provide the patient with a program that best suits their needs. (http://dolphin-inspirations.com/dolphin-therapy-locations.html)
Dolphin-assisted therapy is expensive, but it offers an experience beyond the standard aquatic therapy. These programs provide water therapy along with classroom therapy. The majority of the programs offer overnight accommodations and meals as an adjunct to their programs. The typical program, as offered by Island Dolphin Care, involves a three to five night stay at the therapy program’s facility. The intent is to fully accommodate the patient and those traveling with the patient. The cost and length of the programs vary. For example, the Upledger Foundation is charging $4,500 for a 4-day program. However, there are less expensive programs, such as Island Dolphin Care, which charges $2,200 for a 5-day program. Depending on one’s budget, there are plenty of options to accommodate the patient’s needs. (http://dolphin-inspirations.com/dolphin-therapy-locations.html).
Dolphin-assisted therapy has grown in popularity over the years, and is continuing to grow as more doctors and parents become aware of this creative and interactive therapy option. Any child would be ecstatic for an opportunity to swim with dolphins for a week. Even though this therapy option does not provide a large percentage of patients with measurable long term improvements, it does provide the young patients with various disorders an escape to a fun and positive atmosphere for their therapy needs.
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Bourne, Russel and Laurance Johnston. Is There a Dolphin in the House? Dolphin-Assisted Healing for Physical Disability. <http://healingtherapies.info/Dolphin.htm>. 1992. Feb. 2, 2010.
Dolphin Assisted Therapy DAT. <http://triggerdolphin.tripod.com/DAT.html>. Feb. 2, 2010.
Dolphin Assisted Therapy Essentials. <http://www.dolphinassistedtherapy.com>. Feb. 2, 2010.
Find Inspirational Dolphin Therapy Locations. Feb. 2, 2010. <http://dolphin-inspirations.com/dolphin-therapy-locations.html>.
Welcome to dolphin therapy or dolphin assisted therapy (dat). Web. Feb. 2, 2010. <http://www.dolphin-inspirations.com/dolphin-therapy.html>.
Madeline Brumfield, raised in West Virginia, found it easy to decide where to attend college after receiving the acceptance letter to West Virginia University. Madeline is now at West Virginia University and is majoring in Exercise Physiology.