Saturday, March 29, 2008

Swimming with dolphins is a great activity for children with Autism

Children with autism enjoy a unique experience when they swim with the dolphins in Key Largo.
Parents bring their children to the nonprofit Island Dolphin Care there to interact with the animals in a unique sensory experience that puts a smile on the kids' faces.

Avi Greenfield said he has been bringing his 13-year-old son Jordan there since he was only 4.
"I enjoy watching him being so happy in the water with the dolphins," Greenfield said.

No one claims that swimming with the dolphins cures autism or any other ailment, but the activity has benefits for the children and their parents.

"The dolphins are just a way to bring out the best in people," said Peter Hoagland of Island Dolphin Care. "It gives kids something unbelievable to look forward to. It's a very powerful tool while the children and the family are here. It gives those kids and those families unbelievable memories."
"It provides me with hope, more than anything," said Omar Ramos, whose son, John-Ross, has autism. "I want my child to be able to experience a lot of different things, and so it gives me a lot of hope, especially when I see him being able to do stuff in the water or with the dolphin, even with a computer."

Most families go to Island Dolphin care for a five-day program tailored to their children's needs and abilities.

"He's been saying the word 'dolphin' for the past few days and so obviously it's something he's learning from," said John-Ross's mother, Judy Ramos.

Greenfield is a single dad, and he said he is still wondering why his son Jordan was dealt such a difficult hand.

"Every day. But I accept him the way he is, and spend my life trying to make it better for him," Greenfield said.

It might be tempting to think that the dolphins and the children see eye to eye and that the majestic animals know these kids are special. The fact is, they are just being dolphins and the boys are just doing the best that they can.

Island Dolphin care, a nonprofit organization, offers financial aid for families who cannot afford to pay the whole cost of a program.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"