Since 1997, the Water Planet team offers a special program for special children. This program revolves around dolphins, wild dolphins in particular. It is based on the discovery and the experience of the ocean and the marine eco-system. The philosophy behind Harmony is that we believe in the therapeutic virtues of the global context in which the programs are implemented.
It has been established that the presence of animals can in itself have some positive influence on our physical and emotional balance and well being. The popularity of animal assisted therapy proves it. Horses, dogs, cats and other animals are used by a number of therapists to help improve communication with their patients. Since a few years, dolphins have also been used in animal assisted therapy. Dolphin assisted therapy or dolphin therapy has become a relatively widely used practice, which uses trained dolphins to interact with children or adults affected by autism or various other emotional or physical handicaps for so called therapeutic purposes. Most of the facilities proposing this kind of therapy are amusement parks or zoos holding dolphins in captivity. The animals are trained and conditioned to interact with the clients for a reward. Learned interactive behaviors are reinforced with handouts in the form of fish., click here to read an interesting study about the Effectiveness of Dolphin Assisted Therapy in a captive environment.
We do not approve or support any sort of dolphin captivity even if they are used to help disabled children. The results can in no way justify the means. You cannot rob Peter to pay Paul. In this respect, Water Planet is very different in that it refuses to use denatured captive dolphins trained to perform specific behaviors on cue. We believe in the therapeutic virtues of the experience of nature and of a wild dolphin encounter in his natural habitat and on his own terms. The sensations and the emotions stirred up by this experience of nature in an aquatic environment combined with the expressive arts, music and body work as well as with the bonding and the interaction of the child and his parents with the staff is a potent formula facilitating the healing process. We believe in the therapeutic virtues of the experience of nature and of a wild dolphin encounter in his natural habitat and on his own terms. The sensations and the emotions stirred up by this experience of nature in an aquatic environment combined with the expressive arts, music and body work as well as with the bonding and the interaction of the child and his parents with the staff is a potent formula facilitating the healing process. Our Harmony Program lasts one week during which we go out in the ocean to look for dolphins to observe them and to swim with them. Most interactions take place along Shell Island and in St. Andrew Bay. We also take the time to catch, observe and release a variety of fish, mollusks, crustaceans and invertebrates to the great pleasure of every child and parent.
At the end of the week, we drive to Morrison Spring to snorkel and play in the crystal clear fresh water springs gushing out of an underground network of caves going deep into the water table. Majestic cypress trees sheltering abundant wildlife surround the spring area. This fresh water experience of “another Florida” will give you the opportunity to regenerate before going back to the ocean. Sensory integration activities are organized after each dolphin encounter. Children rotate between different workshop stations proposing a variety of media like paint, pencils and crayons, clay, colored sand, seashells and more, which serve as vehicles to their imagination and to the emotions triggered by their encounter with wild dolphins. The theme of their projects is always related to the marine environment and dolphins
A station providing body work allows the children to improve their mobility and range of motion. The children also get the opportunity to express themselves by playing music and by singing and dancing at the music workshop. Such experience can only be beneficial if it is carefully prepared in advance and facilitated by qualified personnel. The Water Planet staff is qualified and specialized in marine ecology, seamanship, water sports activities, psychology and education, expressive arts and bodywork. The children and their families are taken care of as soon as they arrive at their hotel. The first activity in the program is a pool session. The children and all the other participants receive instructions on how to use their snorkeling gear while playing water games. While they bond with the kids, the staff assesses their swimming skills and airway control. They also receive specific instructions on how to interact with wild dolphins and on safety on board and in the water.
Individual goals established during our programs include, but are not limited to:
- Increased feelings of confidence in self
- Increased range of expression of emotions
- Increase of regulated and predictable sleep patterns
- Increased ability to initiate socialization among peers and adults
- Improvement of appropriate social interactions
- Improvement of physical abilities such as range of motion and climbing skills
- Increased knowledge of marine mammals and marine life
- Increased knowledge of how to appropriately interact with wild animals
- Improved swimming abilities such as holding breath, kicking, and stroke formation.
- Increased opportunities to improve fine and gross motor skills