Saturday, October 11, 2008

Dolphin Therapy

When I was a child, my family used to take summer vacations at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. During the early mornings, I recall seeing the dolphins diving in and out of the ocean. They were close enough to observe; however, too far away for any contact. I always wondered what it would be like to swim with these graceful and intelligent creatures.

In Ancient Rome and Greece, scholars thought that dolphins had special healing powers. Or were good omens if they appeared during the launch of an ocean voyage. About thirty years ago, researchers, doctors, and behavioral therapists began to investigate this ancient belief. Could the dolphins actually heal humans, especially children, with disabling and/or other serious conditions?

Special TraitsPerhaps it would be helpful to provide some background information about dolphins; specifically, the bottle nosed family that are found in the Atlantic Ocean. Dolphins belong to the Cetacean order of mammals. Like us, they have lungs and breathe air. They live in pods with other dolphins, and are very social animals. Similar to the individual nature of human voices, dolphins have whistles that distinguish them from each other.

Interestingly, their brains are larger than ours.Dolphins have a highly developed sense of underwater vision that assists them in dark waters. They send out a series of signals, or clicks, that bounce off of nearby objects in the manner of an echo. When the clicks return through the dolphin´s inner ear, it provides their brains with an image of their surroundings. This unique sense is called echolocation, and is facilitated by a round organ called the melon that is found in the head of the dolphin.

Expert Opinions about Therapeutic Effects According to Dolphin Human Therapy of Key Largo, Florida, and its founder, Dr. David Nathanson, an innovator in this type of treatment, many illnesses and disabilities are receptive to interactions with dolphins.

The three most common diagnoses are cerebral palsy, autism, and Downs Syndrome. Although dolphin therapy may provide benefits for all ages, research and empirical evidence indicate a significant efficacy with children.

Some experts use dolphin therapy as a reward for desired behavior. Others expose the children to dolphins as a part of a comprehensive therapy plan. For some, it is the primary therapeutic vehicle. While it is not known exactly what mechanism is at work, the success rate with many illnesses is a positive result of this alternative therapy.

According to Dr. David Wolgroch, a respected researcher who performed studies in Eilat, Israel, dolphin therapy merits our consideration."As an academic, many questions need to be investigated before definitive claims can be made about Dolphin Therapy.

However, as a clinician there is no doubt that this unique modality of treatment has contributed significantly to the welfare of many individuals receiving treatment. Whether it is the Dolphin Sonar emissions, their permanently fixed anatomical smile, their playful nature or our mystical perception of them is unknown. One thing for sure, the presence of Dolphins produce an atmosphere unique in the therapy world."

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"