Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dolphin Therapy Booming Despite Amid Criticism

If you have a child with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome or autism -- and you have a week or two and a few thousand dollars to spare -- a growing and controversial group of global entrepreneurs claims it can your child feel better by putting him or her in close contact with dolphins.
The strategy is known as dolphin-assisted therapy, and the basic idea is that even brief exposure to these charismatic creatures -- swimming around with them, petting and kissing them, watching them do tricks and hearing their clicking calls in tanks, lagoons or the open ocean -- is so uniquely rewarding that it produces benefits all by itself and/or jump-starts a patient's receptiveness to more-conventional therapy.
The dolphin-therapy business has been booming, fueled in part by the rapid growth in diagnoses of childhood mental disorders such as autism. The practice, however, is fiercely criticized by researchers and marine mammal conservationists. These critics charge that it is no more effective and considerably more expensive than skillful conventional treatment, while potentially harmful to the humans and the animals.

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