Dolphin at Rapid Development Therapy Cayman Islands Gives NJ Boy a Voice

The Rodriguez family from New Jersey took their son David to the dolphin-assisted therapy program on Grand Cayman. David showed symptoms of autism and global development disorder. After 10 days of therapy, David was forever a changed boy.

Ridgefield, NJ, July 14, 2011 --( Dolphins are not miracle workers.

But don’t tell that to Patty and David Rodriguez from Ridgefield, New Jersey.

They recently took their 12 year-old son, David, to Dolphin Cove in the Cayman Islands to participate in the then Dolphin Human Therapy program – now Rapid Development Therapy.

David is a special needs child with symptoms of autism and other developmental disorders.

For his entire life, he has had trouble communicating verbally and nonverbally, which has led to frustration and anger for him and his parents. Quite simply, he would not speak. The only sounds that he made were cries.

“We have had this young boy for 12 years in a glass room, without windows and without doors,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “We have been trying desperately to get in and he has been banging on the glass, desperate to get out.”

They had tried everything, from feeding therapy at St. Joseph’s Hospital to physical therapy at the Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center.

“We had exhausted all the resources around us,” Patty said. “Having a sense of hope was getting tough.”

Then they found Ziggy…

Rapid Development Therapy

Ziggy is one of the six dolphins at the park that swims with special needs children as part of their intensive therapy.

Diane (Dee Dee) Sandelin is director of operations there. She has over 13 years of experience in dolphin assisted therapy, helping children with autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy, among other special needs.

The program works closely with the parents of the children, teaching them the tools to help their children learn, grow and live fulfilled lives. A major part of the therapy is swimming with dolphins.

“The dolphins are the incentive that we work with,” Dee Dee said. “They are not magic. They don’t cure anything. But they are a powerful incentive for the children.”

Rapid Development Therapy uses proven methods in physical, occupational, education, speech and psychological therapy to help children with special needs.

The therapists at RDT individualize the program for parents and families – they know that every child is unique and needs customized care.

“We readjust what therapy the family will do daily, weekly and monthly,” Dee Dee said. Families choose the 10-session, 15-session or 20-session therapy programs depending on the child’s needs. The program also incorporates the siblings and families – no one is overlooked.

First Words

After years of other unsuccessful treatments and at the request of her mother-in-law, Patty looked into the dolphin assisted therapy program at Dolphin Cove.

“There aren’t guarantees with anything, but the dolphin therapy really seemed out of the norm,” Patty said. “And my husband thought we were nuts.”
But they use dolphin-assisted therapy because David liked animals and didn’t mind swimming in water.

On the first day of therapy, Dee Dee noticed that David wouldn’t drink any water. She asked him if he’d like some, but he refused.

On the second day, she told David that if he wanted to swim with the Ziggy, he’d have to drink a little water. So he did.

The next day he drank a little more. By the sixth day, Dee Dee was brushing David’s teeth.

“I can’t tell you how miraculous this was for me,” Patty said. Before the therapy, David wouldn’t drink water, let alone let anyone anywhere near his mouth. Less than a week into the program, he had clean teeth and a belly full of liquid.

At the end of one of the last days of therapy, David had another major breakthrough. The daily dolphin session was over and David was walking away from Dee Dee. She said goodbye to him and he waved back to her.

“Dee Dee told him to use his voice,” Patty noticed. “And sure enough, David turned and said, ‘Buh, bye.’ He would make sounds before, but never talk. And he would never repeat.”

But there he was, on a dock in that beautiful, natural bay at Dolphin Cove on Grand Cayman, saying his first words.

Love and Understanding

Since the family has returned to New Jersey, David has maintained his advancements from the dolphin therapy program.

There were days before the therapy and Ziggy and Dee Dee that Patty questioned if her son was aware.

“Is he in there? Does he understand me?” she would ask herself. “And the one thing I know now is that he is. Those dolphins gave him the motivation to do these small things and now he’s building on those things.”

David’s father was skeptical of the therapy at first. Not anymore. He knows that the therapy not only helped his son, but him as well.

“David was in that glass room… but (the therapy) found and opened the door for us,” he said.

Rapid Development Therapy Cayman Islands
Brian Wright