Mindaugas Rugevičius, Jonas Sąlyga, Brigita Kreivinienė, Lina Birutė Bortkevičiūtė


The focus of this article is based on measurement of longterm effects of Dolphin Assisted Therapy (DAT) for children with developmental disorders. The use of different DAT activities are spread worldwide. They are suggested as therapeutic programs in zoos, aquariums, theme parks, marine mammal parks, and etc. However, there are still ongoing discussions about the possibility to improve illnesses and disabilities using DAT programs. Some of the critics propose that there is no proof that DAT is better than any other kind of animal assisted therapy or that it could be used as a successful long-term treatment. This article presents the fulfilment of parental expectations of DAT program, applied before the foundation of the Dolphin Assisted Therapy Center in Lithuanian Sea Museum. This DAT program was based on human-animal interaction theory and play therapy. It was never conducted in the water as well as additional consultations or other therapeutic programs during the participation in DAT were not held. 42 children with the diagnosis of developmental disorders were selected as potential participants, who had taken part in ten DAT sessions three years ago. Children were selected to meet two criteria: the first one – diagnosis of F80-F89; the second one – their parents filled a Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) before DAT. In the end, 30 participants were willing to participate in the research. There were 24 boys and 6 girls ranging from 3 to 10 years. Parents of these children were asked to participate in 1) telephone survey and 2) to evaluate 77 symptoms by Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist (ATEC). Parental survey and ATEC evaluation results revealed that positive changes in behaviour, sensory and cognitive spheres occurred in 60 percent of the children. Long-term effect (due to parental opinion) occurred to one third of children who participated in the research (33.3 %). About 27 percent of parents named that DAT program had short-term effectiveness on their children and after a while these results had a tendency to decrease. Research results showed that there is a correlation (r=0.45 to r=054; p<0.05) between the level of severity in behavioural and emotional difficulties and effects of DAT: the results of DAT program were perceived to be more effective by parents whose children had more difficulties (hyperactivity/inattention scale of SDQ) before DAT.

Keyword(s): dolphin assisted therapy; developmental disorders; expectations of parents.
DOI: 10.5200/sm-hs.2016.105
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