Early childhood autism (ECA) and Asperger syndrome
Autism is a complex set of deviations in the cognitive and psychosocial sphere, in which the course of certain mental processes is distorted. Early infantile autism (EIA) manifests itself already in infancy and is characterized by a lack of basic emotional reactions in the child – he or she does not smile, does not show emotions towards his or her parents, it is difficult to establish eye contact with him or her. As the child grows, new symptoms appear:
- speech development delay;
- isolation, weak emotional reactions;
- specific sensory responses;
- obsession of actions, disorders of fine motor skills;
- difficulty in mastering basic domestic skills;
- disorder of intellectual activity.
Diagnosis of early infantile autism occurs at the age of 2 to 5 years. Even though modern medicine considers autism an incurable disease, earlier initiation of treatment and corrective therapy can bring certain successes in the struggling against the disease. Complex treatment of early infantile autism presupposes both medication — prescribing sedatives, anticonvulsants, psychostimulants, and physiotherapy, classes with a child psychologist, speech therapist, special-needs expert. As auxiliary correction tools in autism the following methods are applied:
- Art therapy, music classes;
- Game therapy, logorithmics;
- Occupational therapy;
- Hippotherapy, dolphin therapy.
Dolphin therapy for children with autism: a therapeutic game
Dolphin therapy for children with autism is one of the most effective auxiliary methods of correction. Dolphins are considered to be ones of the smartest mammals on our planet, with unique abilities for inter-species communication. By nature, they are endowed with a positive, inquisitive character and absolutely safe for humans. Principle of dolphin therapy is based on the communication of the child with the dolphin in an arbitrary game form, under the supervision of specialists and parents (in some cases). The ability of dolphins to change behavior depending on the psycho-emotional state of a small patient allows one to work with the most complex manifestations of autism and receive positive results.
Dolphin therapy combines several directions of influence on children’s organism:
- Physical exercises – swimming, outdoor games;
- New tactile sensations – dolphins interact with children with pleasure, play with them, ride small patients on their backs and allow children to pat them, etc.;
- Psychotherapy – positive energy of dolphins, game atmosphere of class allow the child to relax and get new positive emotions.
Given the characteristics of the psyche of autists, the child's familiarity with dolphins should begin before visiting the dolphinarium. Parents should tell the child about dolphins, watch some video materials or cognitive programs along with him or her. This will minimize the child’s possible worries when getting into an unfamiliar environment and it will be easier to begin the process of therapy.
Dolphin therapy for autists consists of 3 stages:
- Preparation. At this stage, а medical history is observed and a plan of corrective exercises is drawn up, considering the individual characteristics of the child.
- Primary stage. At this stage, there is a direct interaction between the child and the animal – swimming, playing together, dolphin riding. Classes take place mainly in water, under the supervision of specialists – psychologists, swimming trainers, specialists in working with dolphins.
- Final stage. After the end of course, analytical work is conducted to evaluate the results of dolphin therapy.
The positive influence of dolphin therapy in the treatment of early infantile autism is confirmed not only by parents’ responses, but also by doctors – child psychologists and neurologists, special-needs experts, etc., who observed children before and after dolphin therapy. Using it, you can achieve the following results:
- Development of communication skills and interaction with people around them;
- Awakening of the child's interest in the events around him or her;
- Development/improvement of speech activity;
- Reduced anxiety/aggressiveness;
- Sleep normalization;
- Improvement of intellectual activity.
The physical load, received in the course of class, serves for development of gross motor skills of the child, improves ability to navigate in space.
Asperger’s syndrome and dolphin therapy
With all the specifics of development, autistic children can be distinguished by exceptional abilities to count, music, memorization. Most often, these abilities are manifested in children with Asperger’s syndrome.
Asperger syndrome is characterized by the absence of delay in speech development and intellectual activity in children, but there are “failures” of gross and fine motor skills, stereotyped behavior and difficulties with social interaction.
In addition, as well as EIA, Asperger’s syndrome treatment requires a comprehensive approach with the use of auxiliary correction methods. As it was mentioned above, dolphin therapy allows to achieve the most significant positive changes in the psycho-emotional state of a child with autistic abnormalities.
There are two types of interaction between patients and animals:
- Free communication. In this case, the child independently builds a style of interaction with the dolphin within the permissible limits, the specialists, basically, ensure the safety of the child in the process of communicating with the animal.
- Organized interaction. Communication with dolphins occurs with the participation of a specialist (psychologist, special-needs expert). In this case, a certain algorithm of class is built up, in which the psycho-emotional correction necessary for the child is performed in the game form. Communication with the dolphin serves as an additional factor facilitating the impact on the psyche of the child.
As studies show, on encephalograms of patients after sessions of dolphin therapy, there is synchronization of activity of both hemispheres of the brain, which, in the final result, contributes to increased production of endorphins. They play a significant role in stabilizing the processes associated with memory, training, sleep and have an analgesic and soothing effect. Communication and a kind of “friendship” with dolphins helps children with Asperger's syndrome to overcome difficulties in communicating with others, improves the psycho-emotional state and general tone of the body. As a result of “dolphin treatment”, the child quickly and easily adapts in the society, almost without experiencing fear and discomfort.
In the network of Nemo dolphinariums, classes are conducted by qualified specialists with extensive experience in working with special children. This allows to find the right approach to small patients and develop the most effective and comfortable for the children dolphin therapy.