Curacao Dolphin Assisted Therapy Program
What it is: a unique dolphin assisted program
CDTC offers a personalized two-week program in which interaction with dolphins plays an essential role. It is designed for the treatment of patients of 3 years and older with special needs like autism and cerebral palsy, as well as people with psychological conditions like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. (See list of diagnoses.)
The program is in the hands of certified and committed therapists. It complements and reinforces the traditional therapy that patients are receiving at home. If the patient is a child, its parents and siblings are closely involved in the therapy. The program is provided in four languages: English, Dutch, German and Spanish.
What it achieves: a positive difference
The success rate is high. Our patients show significant progress in:
• fine and gross motor skills
• speech and language
• cognitive development
• social and functional life skills
What this can mean is physical development, better communication, more self-confidence, and more relaxation. A huge difference in the lives of patients and their families.
How it works: the dolphin as a powerful motivator
Dolphins play a central role in the program. They are important supporters, amongst others in operant conditioning, which means that the interaction with the dolphin is also recognized as reward.
Example: a therapist asks a child with motor difficulties to lift its arm up. As soon as it does, the dolphin reacts, and so can motivate the child to repeat the exercise. That way the child quickly and easily gains control of a new situation and builds self-confidence.
Why dolphins: smart and social animals
Dolphins are intelligent and have a very social nature. Research has shown that interaction with dolphins can increase a patients attention span up to four times. Also, dolphins have a unique ability to bond with people and set them at ease. The dolphin unconditionally accepts people with special needs. Some patients realize that the dolphin, as impressive a creature as it is, cannot speak or walk. “The dolphin is just like me!” It makes the dolphin a recognizable therapy partner that patients are willing to work harder for.
How the program is structured
• A personalized two-week program
• Two blocks of five days with one therapy session per day
• One free weekend in between
• The patient will have the same therapist throughout the program
• Customized programs available upon request
On the first day, the therapist welcomes the patient, his family and care team. Before the anamnesis, the medical history and all information from therapists at home is reviewed. Together with the individual therapist clear goals are set. There is a tour of the facility and an opportunity to meet the therapy team and the other patients and families. Then the sessions are ready to begin. Time to meet, interact and work with the dolphins.
How the sessions are structured
Each session has a total duration of two hours, divided into four parts:
• A half hour conventional therapy in a special therapy room.
• One hour of actual dolphin assisted therapy on the platform and in the water.
• A half hour of training of daily living skills such as showering, changing, organizing
• Session evaluation
During the preparation, the patient does exercises designed to work towards the agreed goals. While the therapist, treats supports and coaches the patient, a qualified intern writes the session report. The patient then may change into a wetsuit.
On the dock and in the water, a dolphin trainer and dolphin join the team. The exercises are extended and intensified in the sense of a functional carryover and centered on interaction with the dolphin. Parents and caretakers are watching from a distance.
During the last half hour of therapy the patient is training daily living skills and will take a shower, after which the session is evaluated with the patient, family and caretakers. How did the session go? How do we follow up?