Thursday, January 25, 2007


Deena Hoagland understands the impact a dolphin can have on a human life. Her son, Joe, was left partially paralyzed and visually impaired after having a stroke at the age of three during open-heart surgery.

Deena learned about Dolphins Plus, a nearby research center specializing in dolphin communication. Wanting to get Joe into the water, and intrigued by the prospect of exposing him to dolphins, Deena secured permission from Dolphins Plus owner, Lloyd Borguss, to bring Joe to the center.
It was at Dolphins Plus that Joe first encountered Fonzie, an Atlantic-bottlenosed dolphin. Meeting Fonzie prompted Joe to smile and laugh for the first time since his stroke. Before long, Joe was not only walking, he was bringing Fonzie buckets of fish. After 22 months of interacting with the dolphin, and participating in swim therapy and physical therapy, Joe was close to a full recovery. Now, 11 years later, Joe and Fonzie remain the best of friends.

What Is It About Dolphins?

Researchers have found, for example, that dolphin-assisted therapy aids in reducing stress and increasing relaxation, alleviating depression, boosting production of infection fighting T-cells, stimulating production of endorphins and hormones, enhancing recovery, and reducing pain.

One of the more popular theories is that the dolphin's use of sonar and echolocation produces changes in a person's body tissue and cell structure. Similar to the effect of music therapy, some researchers have suggested that the sounds dolphins emit through their whistles and clicks help produce these changes. Indeed, some individuals swimming with dolphins have reported actually sensing that they were being scanned. They say the echolocation resonated in their bones as they felt it pass through their bodies, producing a tingling sensation.

Another theory is that dolphins are uniquely sensitive to the needs of people with disabilities and seek to help them through playful expressions of concern. This is sometimes referred to as a "secret language" shared when dolphins and people with disabilities "communicate." Dr. Smith goes so far as to suggest that dolphins communicate acoustically with a variety of movements and attend to the body cues of individuals; in particular, individuals with autism, thereby seemingly understanding their thoughts and actions.
to read the rest of this fascinating article

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