Dolphin-Assisted Therapy for Angelman Syndrome: Is It a Good Idea?

Emily Malcolm, PhD avatar

by Emily Malcolm, PhD |

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Dolphin-assisted therapy is a type of physiotherapy that includes dolphins.

People with Angleman syndrome seem to be drawn to the water, and physiotherapy in the water — aquatic therapy — can help those who are apprehensive about falling while walking.

In dolphin-assisted therapy, patients interact with dolphins and can work on physiotherapy goals such as improving coordination and muscle strength.

Some therapists say multiple sessions are beneficial, while others have prescribed a single therapy session. As with all physiotherapy, the appointments and goals are tailored to the patient’s needs.

Myths about dolphin-assisted therapy

There is little evidence to support the claim swimming with dolphins provides “healing” benefits. Dolphin-assisted therapy is similar to other animal-assisted therapies, and dolphins do not offer any added benefits.

Potential drawbacks of dolphin-assisted therapy

The benefits of dolphin-assisted therapies have not been conclusively demonstrated. Studies have been small and poorly controlled.

Many programs maintain dolphins in enclosures that are too small and are very stressful for the animals. Introducing people, especially children, to a stressed, captive animal can be dangerous.

Dolphin-assisted therapy is not available everywhere, and where it is, it can be prohibitively expensive, especially for multiple sessions.

 

Last updated: Feb. 20, 2020

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