Brief History of D.A.T

In modern times, there has been considerable research into Dolphin Assisted Therapy, this research started in the 1950’s with the late eminent Dr John Lilly, neurologist & psychoanalyst. It started with Dr Lilly’s early work with interspecies communication, which led to his discovery of the dolphin’s amazing ability to mimic certain sounds and when properly handled will make definite attempts to imitate human conservational sounds. This was to then lead his research on to explore the biomedical study of communication between man and dolphin.
Dolphin assisted therapy as we know of it now, began in 1973 when Dr. Hank Truby, a linguist and acoustic phonetician who worked with Dr. Lilly and the dolphins for 17 years while they were teaching them English, he first took autistic children to meet the dolphins at the Miami Seaquarium in Miami, Florida.

In this first encounter, two autistic boys who usually had about five minute attention spans began to play with the dolphins. There was a close rapport between the children and the dolphins. While these children ordinarily showed little interest in external things, they showed great interest in the dolphins. The children and dolphins played games for an hour and a half with the children playing the entire time. By the end of the session, the children were cooperating with each other and the dolphins to fill buckets with water to dump over the dolphins and to feed the dolphins fish.
To the parents it was astounding that the children had maintained interest for over an hour and cooperated; this was unique. Dr. Truby reported these results at conferences for some two years and received little interest. Finally, intrigued by Dr. Truby's results, Dr. Betsy Smith performed similar studies with positive results and began therapy programs at Dolphins Plus on Key Largo and at the Dolphin Research Centre Grassy Key in Florida.

From these pioneering ground breaking studies, Dolphin Assisted Therapy programs also sometimes called Human Dolphin Therapy programs began to become more established and grow in numbers, providing more research data confirming Dr Truby’s and Dr Smith’s findings. These new findings were not only in regards to autistic children but with regards both children and adults with varying medical conditions.



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