Massimo dares

“The dolphins and staff at Island Dolphin Care in Key Largo, Florida, have been with us for many years. After our first therapy in 2006, in which not only Massimo but also the rest of the family were challenged and supported, drastic changes quickly became apparent.

Due to his premature birth, Massimo suffers from infantile cerebral palsy with cognitive impairments, blindness and hemispasticity. Before the first therapy, he was reluctant to touch things with “special” surfaces, still wore diapers, spoke little, and barely used his left hand. He was 6 years old then.

During the three weeks at IDC, with the help of our fantastic therapists, especially Deena, we learned to have more confidence in the then small boy. He learned, especially through his dolphin therapists, what he could do independently. With the necessary rigor and a lot of empathy, we crafted, baked, and painted – with both hands. There was swimming and singing. The toilet training he began quickly led to success and gave him more independence.

We have returned many more times and have taken away a new insight, a new skill and wonderful memories from each stay.

Today, the now young man plays the piano with enthusiasm, sings along to every song on the radio, goes to concerts and enjoys traveling. Massimo talks a lot, moves freely in familiar surroundings and uses the toilet independently.

As a big sister, I was there for all the therapies. I have seen how self-confidence grows. The first time he swam all alone with a dolphin, I cheered. I sang poolside and applauded in the classroom when a project was completed. Our therapist always had an open ear or an idea for a solution to a problem. In this situation, you also felt seen and supported as a family member of a relative with special needs.

Even though Deena and Peter Hoagland no longer manage the facility and are now enjoying their well-deserved retirement, that family feeling remains when you arrive in the reception hall with the elevator. After the change of management, we were in the Florida Keys for the last time in 2023. As in previous years, we experienced motivated, warm, and creative employees and can recommend therapy at IDC without any reservations and wholeheartedly.”

Jessica Debole

Lea surpassed herself a little every day

“To see Lea dance with the dolphins again! That was our greatest wish. She is 11 years old and has DiGeorge Syndrome (22q11 microdeletion) and a brain malformation (polymicrogyria). She is non-verbal, non-mobile and has severe scoliosis.

In the summer of 2021, Lea was able to experience her first dolphin therapy on Curacao. It was just terrific. Lea was super motivated from day 1, loved her team of therapist, assistant, and dolphin. That motivation and energy was more than we could have wished for. It is difficult to foresee in advance how the child will react to the unfamiliar animals, strangers, environment, and climate. It was very emotional to see how she trusted herself more and more, how she was able to break away from us parents and had the fun of her life. We didn’t have to wait for long-term results – we knew that we would definitely try again to make the therapy possible for her. Her joy alone was worth it to us.

A year after the first therapy, Lea’s scoliosis, which we had treated with a corset and physio, was operated on. Rods that grow with the child (Magec Rods) were used to straighten and support the spine. The time after that was very difficult for everyone, but we always had one goal: Lea will (without a corset!) travel to see the dolphins again!

She recovered from the surgery and in May 2023, almost 10 months after the surgery, we went to the Curacao Dolphin Therapy and Research Center a second time. Lea was already looking forward to it, as she already knew what to expect. And it was as if she had only been gone for two weeks. Although she got a whole new team, she was immediately fully motivated again. This time she was able to focus much better, was more with herself, where two years before she preferred to see what the other patients were doing. The operated spine was no problem at all.

It was a real joy to see her surpass herself a little every day. She was much more active in the water, imitated the commands, was simply super proud of herself. A highlight was certainly when she was able to do a little dance with all four female dolphins. Lea’s therapist always came up with something to get her out of her comfort zone, to challenge her, but also to offer her a great sense of achievement. We were very enraptured by the loving way the children were treated. Not only was Lea’s team always at eye level with her, but so were all the other wonderful people who come and go at the CDTC. Not a day without at least five high fives for Lea.

We can now see further successes – 4 weeks after the therapy – and have them confirmed by her doctors, therapists and supervisors. After years of practice, Lea can finally nod her head to say yes. That was not practiced in therapy, but the knot has definitely come undone. She can now move about in a wheelchair much more enduringly and safely. This was not explicitly practiced either, but something has happened to her self-awareness and self-efficacy. In therapy, she implements demands that are placed on her more quickly. She no longer protests as quickly and often when things get tiring. The therapy with the dolphins gave her important impulses again and we are very excited to see what else this will trigger.

For us as a family, the time with the dolphins was as valuable as it was the first time. We also received tips, motivation, and fresh energy for everyday life. It still has an effect for so long and each of us dreams back at least once a day. Thanks for all that!”

Antje Hansen

Shannen is now trying to stand up in her wheelchair

“Our second dolphin-assisted therapy was again a complete success and Shannen has made a lot of progress. After we had been to the Curacao Dolphin Therapy and Research Center for the first time in autumn 2021, we were able to experience the dolphin-magic again with our daughter in May 2023. (Note: You can find Shannen’s first encouragement story from autumn 2021 here.)

Shannen is a triplet, born 11 weeks premature. On day 3, she had bilateral grade 3 cerebral hemorrhage. Today she is 15 years old, uses a wheelchair, is physically and mentally handicapped, cannot sit, stand, or walk. She suffers from spastic tetraparesis and epilepsy with seizures, is blind and has a shunt fitted. Already the first therapy significantly improved Shannen’s quality of life. Even today (nearly 2 years after the first dolphin assisted therapy) her seizures have gone down from 3-5 seizures a week to 1-3 seizures a month. She also continues to use her hands more purposefully, which was not the case before the first therapy.

Getting to know the therapists on the first day of therapy was great. Bibi took care of Shannen when out of the water and gave us lots of tips. In the first week Shannen was in the water with Laura and in the second week with Patrick. We already knew both therapists from our first therapy. Shannen loves it when someone sings for her. The team did a great job and even played music on the dock.

On the first day, the dolphins Bonnie, Ritina and Nubia were waiting for Shannen in the water. At first it was something new for her with the dolphins. But after a short time, Shannen thawed. She loved it when Bonnie splashed her wet and also pushed the ring away from her body for Ritina to bring it back. The next day, Shannen also got to know the dolphin lady Chabelita, and both were immediately a great team, so that Chabelita was at her side from that day on. Shannen listened to what the therapists told her – e.g., to kick her feet or to lie still in the water so the dolphin can push her.

In the second week we noticed that Shannen had significantly improved her posture. Her head was no longer hanging on her chest, and it was also clearly visible in the water. And then she suddenly tried to stand up in the wheelchair. We had never seen anything like this before. Since then, Shannen has been doing it every day. She presses her feet onto the footboard and pushes her butt up. Our goal here at home now is to use a stander and who knows maybe a walker too.

We would like to thank delfine therapieren menschen for the organization and the CDTC team for the successful therapy. We have planned our third dolphin therapy for the summer of 2025.”

Manuela Stolzenberg

Eleonora perceives herself much better now

“Eleonora’s dolphin-assisted therapy was just awesome, wonderful, and unforgettable! The calm and balance that we felt during this time has had a lasting effect on all of us.

Our daughter is now 7 years old and our third child. Already in the 17th week of pregnancy we were informed that her brainstem is not properly formed and that she has hydrocephalus. Although we were advised to have an abortion due to the low chance of survival, we made a conscious decision to have our daughter. Today she is developmentally delayed, has a brain disorder, a shunt and suffers from epilepsy. Seizures used to last up to an hour. She is now well controlled with medication and has even been seizure-free for 1.5 years.

As a member of the Swiss “Förderverein für Kinder mit seltenen Krankheiten”, we heard about dolphin-assisted therapy from another family. The two-week intensive therapy on Curacao seemed to be just the right thing for our daughter. We didn’t have very many expectations beforehand. 2022 was a very difficult year for us and so we hoped that we could all regain strength through this therapy.

Eleonora’s brothers were released from school for the time of the therapy. We had the morning block and were at the CDTC with our children from 10:30 – 12:30. The therapy program was adapted to Eleonora and the therapists were in daily contact with us. In this way, requests could be made and ideas could be incorporated. Our two older boys took part in the sibling program. They were with a therapist who talked to them a lot and took great care of them. Additionally, irregularities could also be viewed and discussed. Both were very enthusiastic about this exclusive care and excitedly told us about canoe trips and snorkeling. It was so beautiful for us parents to see our children blossom.

Eleonora’s progress during therapy and even now at home never ceases to amaze us. Since then she can speak much more clearly and her vocabulary is also larger. Even strangers can now understand what she is saying. Cognitively, she has developed immensely. She has better self-awareness and can decide for herself what she wants. Her body tension has also improved and Eleonora is much more agile.

It was a wonderful experience for the whole family and so much heart was involved in these two weeks that this time will linger in our hearts for a long time to come.”

Rebecca De Rinaldis

The therapy surpassed our expectations

“Raphael’s 14-day therapy program has really surpassed our expectations. We were so surprised that he would dare to get in the water with someone he did not know and with such a large animal. Thinking back on it today, we still get goosebumps.

Our son has a very rare genetic defect that is associated with muscular hypotonia and a developmental delay. His pain perception is diminished and he is unable to speak. To let us know what he needs, he points at things. Through social media, we became aware of delfine therapieren menschen e. V. Covid made planning so much more difficult, but after two years, in September 2021, we were finally ready to go and left for Curaçao!

The association organized everything for us and we have not regretted it even for a moment. The entire trip went smoothly, no complications at all. On Curaçao, we already felt well taken care of at the initial consultation. Raphael has made much progress during his dolphin-assisted therapy at the CDTC. He vocalizes more and also differently than he used to and has better concentration and focus during his exercises. His muscular stability has improved so much that he can walk more independently now.

A very special highlight for us was the family swim with the dolphins. Being in the water with the dolphin was such a unique experience. We also love to remember the pelican tour with all the families, organized on location. On this tour, you actually boat into the sunset. It was a wonderful opportunity to talk to the other families but also to just sit back and relax for a little while. The workshops provided us as parents with many new impulses and ideas for back home.

The outcome of the two-week therapy program has been consistently positive for us. We owe this to the organization by delfine therapieren menschen, the environment on Curaçao, the therapists and the CDTC. We always like to go back to our photo album and the fantastic videos and remember our time there. Most likely, we will return in two years for another dolphin-assisted therapy and are already so much looking forward to it.”

Alexandra Müller-Barthelemy

Renée-Sophie has become significantly more motivated

“Renée-Sophie has made a lot of progress. During her therapy she became notably more focused and self-confident. She can swallow, blow, chew and drink much better. The motivation from the dolphin still shows its effect until now. Maybe it is because at home she often watches the therapy video.

Renée-Sophie fell sick in 2011 with an encephalitis at the age of three years. Ever since she has not been able to speak and has logopedic problems, among others chewing and swallowing. At a rehabilitation program we heard about delfine therapieren menschen. We were in luck and received a therapy slot for autumn of 2021. The entire organization through delfine therapieren menschen went smoothly, without a hitch.

The first two weeks at the CDTC were a great experience for the whole family. For Renée-Sophie, swimming and snorkeling with the dolphins was her highlight every day. She learned many commands very quickly and was so proud every time things worked well. We were surprised how well the logopedic exercises went for her on the floating dock. Her will was so strong that she worked more during her exercises than her therapists asked her to. We as parents were filled with pride. Mina and Raphael were able to participate in an exciting sibling program every day. And my husband and I found useful input and ideas in the workshops.

Even the therapists were astonished at her progress. They told us her body tension and also her self-confidence had improved. And Renée-Sophie has found new courage. We are happy we made the decision in favor of dolphin-assisted therapy and will certainly return. We even have our goal for the next therapy all set: Renée-Sophie is finally supposed to live without her burp cloth.”

Anke Krause

Already on the third day Shannen became more relaxed

“We’ve heard a lot about the magic of dolphins. Looking back, we now think it really exists.

Our daughter suffers from spastic tetraparesis and epilepsy. In addition, she is blind. In 2015, we heard about dolphin-assisted therapy from another family during a health resort treatment. Because of Shannen’s blindness, we couldn’t decide to do it at the time. Through friends, however, we later came back to the subject and they reassured us in this. Today we are glad that we flew. The first day was already very exciting. You get to know the therapist and find out which dolphin you are working with. We knew straight away that Shannen would like her therapist: the friendly and funny nature, the Dutch dialect and the songs she sang for Shannen made our daughter happy and made her thrive.

In the first two days of therapy, our daughter was still tense and reserved, but from the third day she relaxed and looked for the dolphin in the water. From then on, Shannen changed a lot. She became more relaxed with her spasticity, opened her hands much more and purposefully and reached for the ring independently. We parents were overwhelmed by the many positive changes and can say that the therapy was a complete success.

This progress also continued at home. She is more attentive, grasps much more consciously and even seeks my hand. One can say that the spasticity has gotten much better. The attacks have also reduced from 3-5 per week to 2 attacks in the last 3 months. She was never interested in her cuddly toys, today she hugs them. The entire environment, her school and the therapists have also noticed the changes. Our goal is to go to Curacao again in spring 2023.”

Manuela Stolzenberg

Sarah can take many steps on her own

“In those two weeks with the dolphins, Sarah was the happiest person on earth. Whenever she could visit Nubia in the water, her whole face would just radiate with joy. I don’t know what it is that the dolphins have but the effect is unmistakable. Sarah is more outgoing, able to concentrate better and, most of all, she can now walk in little steps, all on her own.

Sarah, from birth, has had a massive malformation of her hip. She has a lot of trouble standing and walking. Her surgeries have not changed that. In addition, she has a speech impairment. Her doctors have been unable to find the cause up to now. But she understands everything and uses sign language.

In 2018, I went to Curaçao with Sarah for the first time. In the beginning, she had to be pushed to the dock in her wheelchair. At the end of our stay, she was able to walk to the water, holding hands. For me, it is surprising with how much interest and how fearlessly she now reacts to animals. Before her dolphin therapy, Sarah totally ignored our cat at home and never touched the cat. In the facility on Curaçao, we saw a stray cat. On a whim, I asked Sarah if she wanted to pet the cat. She carefully bent down to her and petted her for a long time. From this point on, she developed a relationship with our cat.

In August 2020, Sarah could once more do the dolphin therapy on Curaçao through delfine therapieren menschen – thanks to the amazing support in our hometown. She again made gigantic progress and her gait pattern improved dramatically. She is much more independent now.

I myself also benefitted greatly from the CDTC concept. I am a single mom, self-employed and very pressured for time. In the two weeks on Curaçao, not only was I able to concentrate exclusively on Sarah but I also experienced a lot of support.”

Andrea Lang

Jonah is more courageous and self-confident

“I have never seen Jonah as happy as he was in the water with his therapist Talina and Sami, the dolphin. Every day, he became bolder and freer. He learned to say Stop and No. And he was able to show his feelings. On his last day, when saying goodbye to Sami, he started crying and we promised him we would do everything we could for him to be able to visit Sami again.

We took part in the dolphin therapy with dolphin aid in the summer of 2020 hoping Jonah would overcome his trauma from a surgery in 2016. But in reality, we are dealing with many problem areas. Jonah has a serious cardiac defect and Willebrand syndrome. He has a mental disability, a visual impairment and speech and developmental delays.
Doctors suspect a yet unknown genetic defect.

The two weeks on Curaçao were the best thing that could have happened to us. Jocelyn found new friends in the siblingsprogram and for my husband and myself, the parent classes were very helpful. For us, the most beautiful thing was, however, to see Jonas so happy and self-confident. When he jumped into the water from a bridge, hand in hand with his therapist, I started crying happy tears.

And Jonah achieved giant improvements in his cognitive abilities. To calculate up to 70 is not a problem for him anymore, whereas before he was only able to go up to 30. Talina also found out that he can learn words more easily than letters. In the ten therapy days, he learned and retained 14 words. And, since Curaçao, Jonah sleeps in his bed by himself. Unfortunately, Corona and its social distancing rules have not been good for Jonah’s newfound self-confidence. But here as well, CDTC helped us and Talina’s tips per email helped Jonah through this difficult time.”

Conny Joswig

Nora speaks more syllables and can concentrate better

“Nora now will see a tractor and say tor. Before her dolphin therapy, this was unthinkable. In these two weeks on Curaçao, she has learned so many new syllables. I would never have dared hope for this. Her attention span has improved extremely.

Nora has a language and developmental disorder and is, at 14 years old, on the level of a three- or four-year old child. To this day, we have not received a diagnosis. That is the reason why we did not consider a dolphin therapy until so late. We did not think that in Nora’s case it could have much of an effect. Other parents with special children, having had very good experiences with dolphin aid, encouraged us to try the dolphin therapy. For Nora, but also for us as a family, the stay at CDTC meant happiness and success all in one. Nora’s younger sister Nala was very well taken care of in the Siblingsprogram and the family swim was a very special moment of togetherness for all of us.

The therapists on Curaçao not only recognized Nora’s potentials but they developed them too. That, to me, is the benefit and special characteristic of this approach. The interplay of water, an individual therapy program and of course the dolphins really motivated Nora. And it is a lasting effect, especially noticeable in school. She is more concentrated, stays with one activity for a longer time and integrates better into her class. The dolphin therapy, in August 2020, has brought so many positive effects for Nora and I really hope that one day we can have her experience it once again.”

Mandy Vanis

Noah has become more self-reliant

„Thanks to the incredible amount of support in our hometown, we were very fortunate. We could attend the dolphin therapy at CDTC through dolphin aid for the second time now. The dolphin therapy is a blessing for Noah and we are indefinitely thankful for this gift. It is the total package that is so helpful for Noah: the dolphins, the customized approach to his therapy, the physio- and occupational therapy as well as his speech therapy, all specifically tailored to his needs.

Noah was born prematurely. Totally healthy. But a few days later, cerebral hemorrhage occurred – bleeding to his brain – and he had a stroke. For half a year, he had to undergo one surgery after the other and new problems happened with each of those operations. Ever since then, half his body has been paralyzed. During and after the dolphin therapy in May 2021, Noah has made great progress. He has become much more communicative and attentive. In school, he speaks up more and, above all, he is so much more confident.

Noah knows that he cannot use his right side the way other children can. On Curaçao, he absolutely wanted to do more with his right hand this time. His will to become more self-reliant was always there. And still is ever since our return. Noah uses his right hand more often, actively grasps for things and is motivated to practice with his Galileo electric dumbbell. The spasticity in his right hand has decreased so that it is mostly open and he can use his hand better. Noah and his sister Noemi are very close. What was wonderful: In the siblingsprogram at CDTC, Noemi was not only there with her brother, she was also very well taken care of.”

The Macheleidt family

Vincent accepts more physical contact

“For the first time, on Curaçao, a therapist was talking about the things Vincent can do. Normally, it is always about what he cannot do. It is a totally different perspective; a very different approach and I was just amazed.

Vincent was a premature baby. At first, things developed quite typically but then, suddenly, everything changed. At nine months of age, he started having epileptic seizures causing major brain damage. Ever since, Vincent has been severely handicapped, unable to speak. And Vincent is auto-aggressive.

We arrived at the CDTC in January 2021 and I had high hopes. I already knew that Vincent reacts very positively to dolphins. In 2014, Vincent had dolphin therapy in Turkey. As a consequence, we were able to discontinue his antiepileptic medication. Before and after the therapy, an EEG was performed and the result was very clear. Ever since then, he has not needed the medication anymore. Up to today, the effects the dolphins have had on him is inexplicable to me and seems almost like a miracle. We went back one more time but I did not feel comfortable there anymore and Vincent started feeling my discomfort. The dolphins were held in dolphinariums and all of the noise and commotion really put me off.

Quite the difference it was in the therapy center on Curaçao that dolphin aid cooperate with. The dolphins move around in their natural habitat and Vincent received a very individual therapy program. All of this has benefitted Vincent so much. He is calmer and more accepting of physical closeness. An effect that has lasted up to now. To see Vincent in the water with his therapist is still one of my happiest moments. His whole body radiated joy and delight. He was relaxed and happy.”

Sabine Springer

Sign up for our Newsletter!

Please enter your name and e-mail address to subscribe to our newsletter.

Note: * Required fields


to top