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

Emily Malcolm, PhD avatar

by Emily Malcolm, PhD |

Share this article:

Share article via email
in-person engagement

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


Angelman Syndrome News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.