Published On: Tue, Apr 28th, 2015

Ever-smiling mammals light-up children with autism

DolphinDid you know that April was “International Autism Awareness Month”?

Probably not. Sadly, it’s not the kind of condition that gets a lot of ink. But imagine this.

Your child is adrift at sea in a small boat in the dark, just beyond your reach. There’s a small candle in the boat. Sometimes it flickers and the flame grows bright, and sometimes it just goes out. And you never knew what wind of inspiration you blew that way to make the difference. Imagine how that feels?

That’s just a drop in the bucket in an ocean of helplessness that most parents who have children with autism feel on a daily basis. Though there are many different therapies available, parents often find themselves needing something outside of the standard box. That’s where “DAT” comes in.

“DAT” is short for Dolphin Assisted Therapy, and this island has one of the few licensed facilities in the world to offer it- the Curacao Dolphin Therapy Center (CDTC). But it’s not as simple as getting a child with autism into the water with a dolphin to see results. The comprehensive therapy sessions involve many things- including classroom work- and are staffed by first-rate licensed professionals. The dolphin swims are designed to be more of a reward for progress made. But sometimes it becomes much more.

Dolphins are one of the few animals on the planet that seem to have an inherent affection for mankind. They seem to want to connect. And it’s still a mystery how the ever-smiling mammals can penetrate the walls to touch these children. But parents usually don’t care how it works, as long as it does.

Canada based Rafael Téllez-Girón and his wife Nadine Larivière brought their son with autism Jean-Philippe to CDTC last January to help him with his anxiety, communication skills, and social interaction. Rafael says, “It was a fantastic experience! And in only two weeks we saw our son grow in all areas, and display his intelligence and capacity for learning new things.”

During my last visit to the Curacao, I saw DAT in action at CDTC as well. I secretly sat nearby the lagoon to witness a session. Watching a mother suddenly drop to her knees with tears of joy because her child lit up like a roman candle when the dolphin appeared was unbelievably moving. I had to walk away in tears myself. Such wonderful and important work they are doing there.

Let there be light.

For help finding organizations that might aid in financing dolphin therapy trips and sessions visit Dolphin Aid. For more on Curacao Dolphin Therapy Centre. 

To learn more about Autism visit: .

By Susan Campbell
Follow Susan’s travels on twitter 

Photo credit: Photo by Curacao Dolphin Therapy Center

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