Rae and Steve Chesney-Beales are parents of a child with autism, Down’s syndrome and global development delay. Frustrated at the lack of results from traditional therapy, they travelled half way around the world from Norfolk, UK, to the Cayman Islands to enroll their 12-year-old son, Izaak, in dolphin-assisted therapy.
Izaak had been diagnosed with schizencephaly (brain malformation), hydrocephalus (abnormal fluid around the brain), epilepsy and global development delay. Zaak has left-sided weakness , has trouble gripping with his left hand and uses a wheelchair for mobility. His parents have tried many types of physical therapy in the UK, but nothing worked. So they have now tried dolphin human therapy for rapid development on Grand Cayman, using real dolphins to help in therapy.
Marcia Martin worked with the Chesney-Beales family every day of the two-week therapy. She worked with Izaak and his parents on developing more independence, self-confidence, awareness of his environment and his ability to better articulate his feelings. These goals might seem minor to families with healthy children, but parents of children with special needs know that these details are everything. Improvement in these areas could mean a happier life for everyone in the family, "I noticed fear early on. I would ask Izaak what he wanted to do, and he’d cross his arms over his chest and say, I don’t know. Or he’d reply with one-word answers. And he was still barely recognizing his left side.”
Marcia applied various methods in physical therapy, classroom sessions, parent workshops and additional therapy over the two weeks to work on these developments. The dolphins were used as the ultimate motivators. As the therapy progressed, Izaak became more and more confident. When Rae and Izaak were riding in the van from the hotel to Dolphin Cove, Izaak turned to his mother and said, “No wheelchair today. I’ll walk.” He had never walked without a wheelchair before. For that day and for the rest of the therapy, he walked.
It may sound mystical magic, but the simple solution is that Izaak was motivated by the incentive of the dolphins – Ziggy in particular – and the effective therapy. He built the confidence to break out of his comfort zone. And he wanted to push himself to get better. This is at the root of the dolphin-assisted therapy at Dolphin Cove. The program provides therapeutic tools for the child and family to continue the hard work back at home and for the rest of their lives.
Even back home in the UK, Izaak is more confident, his vocalization has improved, and his eye contact with strangers in much better. As for his left hand, he has learnt to grip, toss and hold. He has improved his strength and awareness.
Rapid Development Therapy
- RDTCI is a non-recreational dolphin-assisted therapy programme in the Cayman Islands that helps adults and children with special needs. It helps participants rapidly improve in all areas of development. RDTCI jump starts the children/adults and teaches strategies to continue making strides after therapy concludes. RDTCI does not cure or prevent injury, illness or disability. Common diagnoses include cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, autism, spina bifida, traumatic brain injury, genetic syndromes and learning disabilities. It is quite expensive and there is no guarantee of short or long-term health improvement.