The Pros and Cons of Dolphin Assisted Therapy for Autism | Organization for Autism Research

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Guest blogger Lynndy Mobley writes about her experience with dolphins and dolphin assisted therapy for individuals with autism. In today’s post, she writes about the pros and cons for using this type of therapy.  

It comes as no surprise that dolphins and autism go hand in hand.  Dolphins and the autistic love the sensation of water.  Through the eyes of the average person, being in water may not seem like a big deal.  However, to someone who is autistic, the sensation of water is amazing.  From an autistic’s point of view it feels like you’re being wrapped up and cradled in a blanket of water.  This sensation is soothing and provides a feeling of safety.

Before being diagnosed with autism, I participated in two different swimming with dolphins programs.  My first experience was in 1999 in the Florida Keys at Island Dolphin Care.  My second experience was in 2007 at Discovery Cove in Orlando.  I loved swimming with trained dolphins as well as wild ones.  I wouldn’t trade either experience for anything in the whole world.  If I had to choose one word to sum it up it would be “amazing”.

There has been quite the buzz about Dolphin Assisted Therapy.  This type of therapy claims to help those with autism, ADHD, cancer, Down’s syndrome, Rhett syndrome, speech and cognitive problems, and spinal cord injuries.  There are some pros with Dolphin Assisted Therapy.  It provides the opportunity for autistics to have new sensory experiences in water.  They will be able to experience the swirling water around them as a dolphin playfully swims by.  They will experience the serene feeling of the water cradling their body.  When the opportunity arises for them to touch a dolphin, they will find out that a dolphin’s skin feels like a hot dog.  As the dolphin swirls around their body they can sense their unconditional love.

In my opinion, Dolphin Assisted Therapy is misleading.  While it does have its upsides, the cons about these programs outweigh them.  It appears to me that Dolphin Assisted Therapy targets autistics and their parents who are desperate to help their child overcome autism. Many Dolphin Assisted Therapy programs claim they can jump start a more traditional therapy and some even claim they can cure autism through Dolphin Assisted Therapy.  Whether dolphins can heal autistic people remains to be scientifically proven.

For five sessions lasting forty minutes each, it will cost from $2,000 to $3,000.  I believe Dolphin Assisted Therapy is still very controversial because it isn’t a practical form of long term therapy.  Most of us don’t have $3,000 to spend routinely.  Not to mention, we don’t have easy access to Dolphin Assisted Therapy on a daily basis.  It doesn’t provide any special benefits that can’t be derived from other more practical forms of therapy.

In closing, there isn’t a cure for autism.  However, if you are looking for an unforgettable sensory experience for your autistic loved one, this is it. In my opinion, it is best to do this in the dolphin’s home habitat.  After all, that is where they are supposed to live. One day, I hope to swim with a pod of wild dolphins.  If this isn’t for you and you are trying to encourage empathy and passion, you can promote the needs of wild dolphins by watching documentaries, reading blogs, or even sponsoring a wild dolphin.

About the Author:  Lynndy Mobley is an activist for people as well as animals.  She is married and has three children who are seventeen, fifteen and thirteen years old.  She has spent two years working as a teacher’s associate in special education with seventh and eighth graders. She is a certified yoga instructor, certified medical assistant and certified nursing assistant.


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