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'Dolphin Therapy' for Children with Special Needs
[May 31, 2009]

'Dolphin Therapy' for Children with Special Needs

DUBAI, Jun 01, 2009 (Khaleej Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Children from a special needs centre interact and play with dolphins every week, following the centre's decision to incorporate 'dolphin therapy' to improve the social and communication behaviour of its autistic pupils.

About 45 children from Dubai Autism Center (DAC) now spend over two hours touching, playing, feeding and communicating with dolphins, at the Dolphin Bay at the Atlantis -- The Palm. The therapy, the first of its kind in Dubai, is already used across the world to help autistic children who suffer from neurological disorders. It is believed to enhance speech and motor skills of children with autism.

Parents of children at DAC welcomed the initiative saying they hoped it would help their children in the long run. "Any close quarter interaction with animals is beneficial for children suffering from autism. It was a wonderful experience for my son and he was on a high for a few days after the trip," said Emma Sharples, mother of six-year-old Leo. "It is a good therapy and a great way of schooling. For our little boy, it has been a great experience as he could come back and name the different dolphins," she added.

"I am not sure of its impact on autistic children's behaviour as it depends on the child. But, centres have to try out everything to help children with special needs. My son enjoyed his trip," said Waffa Madi, a parent of 17-year-old Majd. Sarah Al Marzooqi, educational psychologist and DAC Administration and Finance manager, is optimistic of the new programme's impact on the children.

"The dolphin therapy features various activities that improve the social and communication behaviour of children with autism. These activities have shown an outstanding progress for children who are facing physical and mental disabilities," she said.

"The dolphin therapy is not just a tool that can help physically and mentally. It is also a psychological treatment that enables children with autism to lead richer, more productive lives, in the community rather than in seclusion," Al Marzooqi added.

The programme is supervised by a team of occupational and movement therapists, psychologists, and special educators from the centre.

Dubai Dolphinarium had also announced a Dolphin-Assisted Therapy (DAT) for children with special needs, when it opened in the emirate last year. However, officials said the programme was yet to be launched at the centre. -- To see more of the Khaleej Times, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2009, Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For reprints, email, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.

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