Dolphin Therapy for Individuals with Autism

There are many different needs and challenges associated with autism spectrum disorders. These disorders are still largely a mystery to scientists, doctors and other professionals. There are several recommended therapies, but few are backed by hard evidence. Due to the lack of knowledge and limitations with recommended treatments, many people with autism opt for alternative therapies. One of these alternatives is Dolphin Assisted Therapy, or DAT. This treatment involves the client interacting with dolphins in a controlled marine environment, accompanied by a treating specialist such as a psychologist or licensed therapist.

DAT offers children and adults with spectrum disorders the unique opportunity to get into the water and interact with dolphins which have been specially trained for the encounter. The therapy is predicated on the belief that dolphins and humans have a special connection that has a calming effect on both the person and the animal. Proponents of the treatment boast incredible progress rates. Some percentages of speech and language improvement are near eighty per cent. However, these statistics should be approached with caution as they are not backed by any scientific evidence that has been taken from an unbiased source.

DAT is believed to target emotional and communicative challenges that affect people with autism. Dolphins are effective because the verbal pressure is taken off of the child, and nonverbal interaction is possible. Children with autism sometimes have social aversions which may lead to anxiety, but can interact with dolphins and other animals in a way that allows them to progress socially until they are ready to transfer the acquired skills into relationships and interactions with other people.

DAT should only be considered under the supervision of a recommending doctor. There are many physicians who support alternative treatments such as DAT. People who are prone to seizures are not candidates for DAT treatment. There are also some medications which may disqualify a patient from participation. These are examples of medical consultation questions to ask prior to seeking dolphin therapy. A treating psychologist should also be a participant in the treatment team, in order to ensure a successful treatment. Occupational therapists offer effective treatments during the dolphin sessions, and it is a benefit to have them on board with the treatment plan.

Another reason to start with a physician and include a team of professionals is to ensure that you have found a valid center providing appropriate treatment. There are many marine facilities willing to cash in on special needs services that do not provide therapeutically beneficial programs. Legitimate facilities will employ a team of professionals specifically trained in autism spectrum disorders. They will not promise to cure autism. Consumers should request references and interview treating professionals before committing to the costs associated with treatment.

DAT sessions are approximately fifteen minutes in length. Success rates are reported when clients receive daily sessions for approximately ten days. DAT sessions cost approximately three hundred dollars per session. Expenses are somewhat higher with dolphins than other treatment animals due to the costs of maintenance, training and liability insurance incurred by the dolphins. Since this is an alternative treatment, it is not covered by most insurance plans. Some centers may offer financing options.

DAT offers individuals with autism the opportunity to interact with a species that is in tune with the unexpressed emotions of people. It offers them the chance to explore reciprocal interaction without social rejection or anxiety. Autism is not completely understood by science, which means that interventions are not all completely understood. Positive results are reported by proponents of DAT, as well as many parents of children with autism. While the reported results may not have full backing from scientific communities, this could be contributed to general lack of scientific knowledge about autism.

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2). Pivotal Response Therapy for Autism
3). Animal Assisted Therapy
4). Is hypnotherapy effective for anxiety in autism?

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