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Dolphin-assisted therapy with parental involvement for children with severe disabilities: further evidence for a family-centered theory for effectiveness

By E. Stumpf, E. Breitenbach

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Abstract

Dolphin-assisted therapy has frequently been criticized for a lack of empirical results and theoretical foundation. In this study, results from an innovative dolphin-assisted therapy program for children with disabilities are presented. The therapeutic program is based on a sophisticated framework and developed with reference to previous findings about special education interventions. Parental involvement was integrated purposefully into the dolphin-child interaction to initiate an improvement in parent-child interactions. The effectiveness of this approach was supported in a controlled pretest-posttest design with matched samples. Pre-testing was conducted 4 weeks before dolphin-assisted therapy commenced, and post-testing occurred 4 weeks and 6 months after it finished. In total, 47 children with disabilities (Down syndrome, physical or mental retardation) and their parents and pedagogic-therapeutic staff participated in the study. The results of the parental questionnaires showed stable, positive changes in children's communicative abilities and social-emotional behavior and in parental quality of life, with mainly large effect sizes. These results exceed previously published effects from animal-assisted therapy and likewise of dolphin-assisted therapy. Data derived from staff questionnaires showed a moderate therapeutic effect on one of the three factors tested in relation to children's communicative abilities, but not on the social-emotional behavior of the child. Possible explanations for these findings are discussed.

Publication Title Anthrozoos
Volume 27
Issue 1
Pages 95-109
ISBN/ISSN 0892-7936
DOI 10.2752/175303714x13837396326495
Language English
Author Address Department of Psychology, Julius-Maximilians-University, Universitat Wurzburg, Lehrstuhl f. Psychologie IV, Rontgenring 10, 97070, Wurzburg, Germany.eva.stumpf@uni-wuerzburg.de
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Tags
  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animals
  3. Anthrozoology
  4. Children
  5. Disabilities
  6. Diseases and injuries of animals
  7. Education
  8. Effect
  9. Efficacy
  10. Humans
  11. Interactions
  12. Interventions
  13. Mammals
  14. Men
  15. Mental deficiency
  16. parents
  17. peer-reviewed
  18. Primates
  19. Quality of life
  20. Questionnaires
  21. therapy
  22. vertebrates
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  1. peer-reviewed