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Journey into dolphin assisted therapy


Atara Stolovitsky and family



Our journey started last March when the therapy was presented to me as an option for Atara. Dolphin Aid Canada with its president, Sheila Botton walked us through the whole process, gave us support and remained a lifeline. Within the next 8 months, money was raised that made the trip a possibility. The therapy is expensive, so the process was an investment of time, belief and wonderful volunteers.


Atara, Tova (her sister), myself and her father left in November for the therapy. Generally I’d say it was life changing, eye opening and amazing experience. I learned the difference between a vacation and a trip. It was definitely a trip.


Atara met her therapist (a psychologist) and intern (speech therapist) after Jon and I had talked about Atara. To end their first meeting, Atara was introduced to Bonnie (dolphin) by Paul (therapist) who connected and formed a quick bond with this human who apparently gave something to a young mother/dolphin. Atara initially hesitantly got into the water and straight into Paul’s waiting arms.


By the next day, Paul had become Atara and Bonnie’s facilitator. Atara quickly got into the water to be with her new dolphin friend. For ½ hour before every swim, the humans worked on behavior and speech. What they worked on was brought to the water. Often Bonnie acted a distractor for Atara who had to focus on the behavior therapy they constantly worked upon. For the 45 minutes in the water, some of it working on the platform, they worked and played.


Atara had her 18th birthday there which was celebrated with gusto. Everyone was so happy.


During the two weeks, Jon and I participated in two workshops. One was about dolphins- their history, who they are and their reproduction. The girl who gave the talk really seemed to enjoy talking about their reproduction. The other workshop was given by Paul. It was about behavior. Tova was asked to participate in their siblings program. In a very teenage fashion, she sort of participated. As the sibling, they allowed her on the platform for 1 session. Generally, we watched from a covered area about 30 feet away. That was the ultimate place to be bored. We sat on boulders, shaded from the sun with the sea breeze on us. Not bad.


It’s hard to sum up what Atara came out of the experience with. There were so many little things; some having everything to do with behavior and speech and some are things that seem to have nothing to do with Bonnie or the therapies. It was a holistic experience after all.

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