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Where Dolphins Meet Kids with Special Needs

I was recently invited to a kick-off event for Dolphin Aid Canada. I have to confess, my first impression was that this was a foundation to “save the dolphins”.  That’s so NOT the case.

Dolphin Aid is an organization whose objective is to raise money in order to fund special needs children and their families who could benefit from Dolphin Assisted Therapy at the Curacao Dolphin Therapy & Research Center (CDTC).  Dolphin Aid Canada is launching for the purpose of providing Canadian families with this unique and therapeutic opportunity.

It’s possible that, like me, you haven’t heard of Dolphin Assisted Therapy.  It’s also possible you haven’t heard of Curacao.   I will do my best to share with you what I know and I will also provide you with some resource & contact information should you be interested in inquiring further.

What is Dolphin-Assisted Therapy?

Dolphin Assisted Therapy is literally a therapeutic program for special needs individuals, in this case: children, where dolphins are actually involved in the treatment.

How are the dolphins involved?

Dolphins have an uncanny, almost magical knack, for understanding and identifying children with special needs and act towards them with extra-special gentleness and kindness.  Part of the therapy that takes place at the CDTC is that the children get to actually work with the dolphins from the platform.  This gives them a sense of responsibility. The positive reactions and love they inevitably receive from these affectionate mammals helps to build their self esteem and literally brings the laughter back into the lives of those where it had gone missing.

Who attends?

The entire family.  Special needs affect the lives of both parents and siblings, and therefore their involvement in the therapy is an integral part of its success.  Furthermore, the families usually desperately need, and rarely get, a break.  Given that they are not needed for all of the therapy sessions, they can benefit from the beautiful beaches and all that Curacao has to offer.  This re-energizing is essential for families and rarely, if ever, do they get the chance to truly vacation worry-free.  A trip to the CDTC in Curacao offers that opportunity.

Where is Curacao?

Curacao is a Dutch island in the Carribbean. Though not widely known to North Americans, those who are familiar with it refer to it as a “hidden gem”.

What qualifies as ‘special needs’

Special needs are special needs. Period.  From Asperger’s to Down Syndrome to conditions so rare they affect only 5o people worldwide, they qualify.  For a complete list of diagnoses that ‘qualify’ click hereNote: even if a diagnosis does not appear on the list, it does not mean that it does not qualify.  To be sure consult with the CDTC or Dolphin Aid Canada.

How long is treatment?

What is generally recommended is a two-week program.

How are the dolphins treated?

The dolphins interact with the children of their own free will.  They are living in a natural lagoon with fresh, flowing ocean water.  They are well-fed, loved and respected in every way.

How much does it cost?

The cost per child, for  a two week program is approximately $7,350 USD.  This does not include the cost of airfare and accommodations.

Are subsidies available?

YES.  Through Dolphin Aid Canada.

Is there some way that I can help?

YES. Dolphin Aid Canada can only send deserving families if it has the funds to do so. Every dollar raised helps.  Some concrete ways that you can help:

  • Make a donation (every single dollar helps)
  • Donate air miles/ travel points to help families to get there
  • Raise funds
  • Attend the Dolphin Aid Canada kickoff event. See here for details
  • Like the Dolphin Aid Canada Facebook Page to stay up-to-date with developments as well as ways that you can help
  • Spread the word to generate awareness

What are the details of this “kick off event”?

  • Sunday February 19th
  • The F.I.R.M Club Lounge 2362 Hymus (Pointe Claire H9P 1J9)
  • Live performances from Soulvation and All Day Dreamers
  • $30 admission includes one special drink and a light buffet
  • Many raffle prizes!

Has Dolphin Aid Canada sent any families to the CDTC yet?

On March 10th 2012, thanks to Dolphin Aid, a family from Montreal with a special needs child will be departing for Curacao for a two week specialized therapy program at the CDTC.  CTV W5 will support the mission with a documentary about the unique work and great success at the CTDC during the two weeks. Dolphin Aid has secured the family for one week of specialized therapy and accommodations.  The objective of the kickoff event is to raise the funds for the second week of therapy, accommodation and flights.

Who can I contact to find out more about Dolphin Aid Canada?

Sheila Botton, fab Montreal mom of 3, Editor of Events Curacao and Co-Founder of a2z Parents, found her calling when she first witnessed a therapy session at the CDTC.  She is making it her mission to get as many Canadian families as she can to the CDTC.  SHE is the one to contact.  You can do so by emailing her at

Where can I find out more about the CDTC?

Visit their website at:

I hope you will join me in supporting this fabulous initiative!

Have a wonderful day,


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