Dolphin Therapy: Offering Families Hope

Tears welled up in my eyes as I tried to focus on an eight year-old autistic girl who was out of her comfort zone and thriving. The same little girl, who’s shrill screaming at taking a shower, made her parents nervous and embarrassed. Now she was in the ocean with her specialized trainer, interacting with a dolphin that produced an unforgettable smile on her face.

It is the permanent smile on dolphins faces that engages most people consistently. Dolphins have an ability to de-stress humans with their playful actions and cheerful sensitivity. Alex was lucky to be the first child chosen to be a beneficiary of the newly created Dolphin Aid Canadian chapter. This organization, while new to Canada, is well known in the UK and Europe. The intensive fourteen-day rigorous therapy includes two hours of dolphin therapy each day in addition to speech therapy, physio and occupational therapy as well as a psychologist. These highly trained specialized angels are fully dedicated to working with the families and ensuring they have the proper support to move forward.

For the family, it is the smile on this girl’s face that was magical. It was the joy that her parents and younger brother realized at seeing her in this new found freedom that brought tears of joy to their eyes. The family spoke of an incredible progression that took place from day one and allowed Alex to thrive with hew new friends.


These adorable dolphins can move with skill testing maneuverability and yet be as gentle as a bubble of air underwater. In contrast, most handicapped children have difficulty in making even the smallest movements or tiniest of decisions on their own.  Put the two together and magic happens.

The Curacao Dolphin Therapy and Research Center (CDTC) offers special needs children and their families a chance at freedom, a fresh break from their challenging daily lives.  By giving these children the opportunity to work with highly trained professionals that are dedicated to breaking them free of their handicaps, the whole family, while participating, too, can feel released from their daily challenges as well.  The center offers families a vision of hope.

Located in the center of Curacao, in custom made swim areas in the ocean, CDTC is the brain child of Kiki, a wonderful spirited woman who has turned personal tragedy into a positive drive to help others. With the on-going support of Dutch, the visionary man who developed the complex that houses CDTC, they have been able to help many families since their start in 2004. They provide the catalyst for providing hope for families of handicapped children.

The center welcomes around 400 patients and their families from around the world each year. They treat people of 3 years of age and older with special needs like Autism, Asperger and Down Syndrome, or psychological conditions like depression, PTSD and burnout. Does it work? The 70% return rate speaks for itself.

Children and parents spend time with the therapists who teach the children skills that will bring their personal development to new levels, never seen before. The sensitive dolphins help to bring out the improved behavior. Essentially the experience is a catalyst for families to further develop their child and the entire family benefits.

CDTC also follows a strict code with the dolphins that are used. They are either born in captivity or grandfathered, having originated in known centers in other countries.

Families stay at the Dolphin Suites hotel which is a handicapped friendly hotel located a short walk from CDTC. The hotel features numerous amenities that will ease the challenge of travelling with handicapped children. Rooms are spacious and include kitchenettes and there is a swimming pool easily accessible to all. The staff are fantastic and truly love interacting with the families as they go through these amazing transformations.

If your family or someone you know could benefit from this higher level of child/family therapy, then feel free to check out their website