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Dolphin Therapy – Autism and Dolphin Research Page 2

Research on autism and wild dolphin therapy in Panama City Beach Page 2


Screening Criteria

  • The child must be enrolled in the Harmony Program.
  • The child must be diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder (autisme, Asperger Syndrome, Rett Syndrome , disintegrative disorder and atypical autism 1 or 2) by a healthcare professional.
  • The child must be between 3 and 18 years of age.
  • He must be comfortable in the water (He must not necessarily know how to swim).
  • He should not be afraid of animals.
  • The other aspects of the child’ personality will add to the diversity of the case study.


The families are responsible for all program’s costs as set by Water Planet as well as for all travel, food and board expenses associated with this program. The families who want to participate in the research will need to fill out questionnaires before the program and after the program. Three adults involved in the child’s life will be asked to fill out these questionnaires: the 2 parents and one of the child’s therapist or teacher.

What are the advantages of participating in this research ?

The families participating in this project will be contributing to the advancement of the knowledge we presently have of alternative therapies available to children with pervasive developmental disorders.

At the end of the week in Florida, parents will receive a report on the child’s behavior throughout the program.

Our Programs coordinator will make herself available to your questions and will offer advice on how to manage your child’s behavior.


  • The families who are interested in participating will be asked to produce a short video (5 x 10 minutes) of their child at home before their trip to Water Planet in Florida. The goal of this video is to provide basic information about the child in his/her home environment before he/she participates to the Harmony Program. This video will remain strictly confidential and will be used for this research project only.
  • Each parent will be asked to independently fill out a questionnaire covering their perception of the strong points and weaknesses of their child.

In Florida

The Program coordinator will meet with the families before the program in order to facilitate the bonding process and also to make sure that the families are comfortable and ready for the week ahead.

The reactions of the children on the boat, in the water, and as they are going through the different sensory stimulation workshops will be assessed. The children’s social interactions will also be evaluated while they interact with their parents and staff. The data collected will remain strictly confidential and will be used solely for the purpose of this research project.

Before they leave, the Harmony Program Coordinator will meet with the parents to hear their comments, evaluate their own experience and the perceptions they had of their child’s reactions and behavior throughout the week.

After the program in Florida

Once the parents are back home, the parents will be asked to shoot a second video of the child under the same circumstances as the footage obtained before the trip. This is meant to compare manifested behaviors before and after the interventions.

Ms. David will analyze the video tapes with at least one observer to verify if changes in the child’s adaptative behavior have occurred during the week with Water Planet

The parents and the child’s teacher or therapist, who had filled out the pre-intervention questionnaire will sent another questionnaire about their perceptions of the child’s adaptative behaviors 1 month, 3 months and 6 months after the child’s participation to the Water Planet’s Harmony Program. (Questionnaires will be exchanged by post or by e-mail.)

The data will analyzed and the results published by Genevieve David in a scientific journal.

The researcher’s critic of several publications on Dolphin Assisted Therapy

Genevieve David has published an article (available in French only) entitled : “Est-il ethique de proposer la delphinotherapie comme moyen d’intervention aupres des enfants autistes, compte tenu des connaissances actuelles sur le sujet? ” (PDF file). It is a litterary revue and a critic of the scientific publications on the subject of Dolphin Assisted Therapy.
Another publication (in French but with abstract in English) co-authored by Genevieve David and 2 university professors introducing the psychological and cognitive effects observed by B. Smith, D. Nathanson and V. Servais, was produced with a section on the psychophysiological studies by S. Birch, D. Cole and O. DeBergerac. This publication was presented in the fall of 2006 at the ACFAS congress (Association Canadienne Francaise pour l’Avancement de la Science – French Canadian Association for the Advancement of Science)