DOLPHIN ASSISTED INTENSIVE THERAPY JUNE 21- 24, 2007
By Elizabeth Pasquale, LMT, CST
DAY 1, Thursday
Freeport, Grand Bahaman Island.
There were 4 clients and 10 therapists. The 4 clients were (names changed for privacy) Joseph, a 19 year old with autism; Sarah, a 57 year old woman who ate what she described as “massive amounts” of tuna sushi and was paralyzed from the waist down from toxins; Alice, a 14 year old girl with autism; and Athena, 4 years old, who was born without a corpus callosum, and was severely developmentally delayed.
We were 10 CranioSacral Therapists including Chas, the Upledger Foundation instructor directing this Intensive Program; Kat, therapist and facilitator; Carol, another Upledger instructor, therapist, and also Athena’s therapist; Lilly, Bob, John, Lisa, Chris, and Heidi, who accompanied her client, Sarah.
The schedule was to go like this for the 4 days we were together. 9AM: Meet at the Conference Center meeting room. First day: introductions and client’s goals. After that, hear how everyone’s experience was the day and night before.
10 to 11 AM: CranioSacral Therapy (CST) on the table in the meeting room, two or more therapists with each client.
11 to 12 noon: walk over to UNEXCSO, sign in for the dolphins, get on the boat and ride over to Sanctuary Bay, where the dolphins live.
12 to 1 PM: dolphin time in the water, 2 dolphins, clients with therapists and some family member participation.
1 to 1:30: ride back on the boat
1:30 to 3PM: lunch
3 to @ 5PM: CST on the tables in the meeting room, 2 or more therapists with each client.
5 to 6 PM: therapists’ discussion
Being the Bahamas, times are approximate. On a couple of occasions, the therapists didn’t finish until 7 PM.
Here is a description of the pool where we had dolphin therapy:
The pool was a fenced section of Sanctuary Bay, where the dolphins lived. Our section was about 40 feet wide by 60 feet long. There was a 10-foot wide platform running the width of the pool where the water was about 3 feet deep. The clients were to stay at that end, each with the 2 therapists assigned to them, while the dolphins freely interacted with them. The clients lay back on the water, floating, with their therapists minimally supporting them and doing CST. Chas instructed us to treat the dolphins as the lead therapists. As the dolphins swam by, we were to present the client and try to stay out of the dolphins way. We were to trust that the dolphin would be aware of the client’s needs and would treat the client in various ways. The dolphin might touch the client and we were to keep track and record these touches in the client’s record. The dolphin might use their melon (head) area and direct energy to the client or emit sounds and treat the client with sound energy.
Chas reported that when dolphin scientists studied the sounds the dolphins made when they were doing treatments, these scientists found that the dolphins made new sounds that they had never recorded before. This happened on more than one occasion.
In the water with Joseph
Joseph was able to get himself into the water without too much coaxing from his mother, Leanne. He was a very skinny 19 year old, so Leanne had the forethought to have him in a short wetsuit. I was in the water just ahead of him. As he came down the ladder, I had my arms around him. It was a good thing I did, because he went straight for the deep end.
In the Dolphin therapy pool, there is a platform we are supposed to stand on that is on the side of the pool that we enter on. It runs the width of the pool, about 40 feet, and is about 10 feet wide. Then there is a drop off and the rest of the pool is deep water where the dolphins swim. We are supposed to stay on the platform for the therapy.
Although autistic, Joseph was a swimmer and he was used to deep-water pools. So he naturally headed off the platform and I was there to stop him. A dolphin immediately came over to meet Joseph. The two dolphins in the pool that day were Coral and Abico. Coral came a few feet from Joseph just off to his right side and waited there.
Joseph was pretty anxious and stiff in the water. He recoiled when Coral came over. She backed off and swam away. We brought Leanne in the water and Chas took Joseph and I took Leanne. She was a bit tense in the water, too, but she lay back. Joseph was next to her and touched her body above her right leg as she floated. Her head was in the direction of the dolphins and Coral came over and lightly touched her head.
Many of us believe that the dolphins can treat one person through another person. I personally felt that transmission of energy on my first dolphin therapy program five years ago. I was standing between a mom and her son, both of whom were floating in the pool, supported by therapists. I was touching mom with one hand and son with the other. I saw the dolphin touch mom and stay touching her. As she did, I felt the energy, like very mild electric current run up my one arm, across my shoulders, at the spine give me a sharp, quick pain, travel down the other arm, to the son. I don’t know if I would have believed this if it hadn’t happened to me. After a few seconds the dolphin left the mother and the current stopped.
Leanne experienced the dolphin’s touch as pleasant and asked me, “Is that the dolphin?” as she was so gentle, Leanne was not sure what it was.
Of course, we were not in the pool alone. The other 3 clients were in there, too, along with their 2 therapists and at least one other parent. Athena’s dad, Jason, was between Athena and us. Later, Athena’s brother Alan came in and was with dad.
Alice was next with her 2 therapists and then was Sarah with her 2. Chas was with us for the beginning of the hour and Kat was roaming and helping someone else. I was concentrated on Joseph so I couldn’t keep track of what anyone else was doing. I saw the line-up as I entered the pool and that was it. From there, I was vaguely aware of them and the energy passing between the dolphins and us.
Joseph doesn’t talk much. That morning he had been a one-word man, perseverating with the word “Pee” over and over again. Leanne said it’s his way of getting out of doing something he doesn’t want to do. He says “pee” and she takes him to the bathroom and he’s out of the therapy for the moment.
By contrast, in the water, Joseph was making all kinds of sounds, though not words. Chas said afterward that he thought Joseph was mimicking the dolphins and communicating with them. Alice was lying on the other side of Athena, who was on our right. Alice asked, “What’s the matter with John?”
When told that he was nervous, she said, “I was nervous once.”
Occasionally, throughout the first 40 minutes, we would occasionally hear Alice asking, “How’s Joseph? What’s Joseph doing?” Or something like that. She would then say reassuring things to him, speaking from her experience.
Later, we were all to talk about how unusual this was for her. She used to only speak about Kermit the frog or other things completely unrelated to the present and perseverate on that. Here she was with the dolphins, totally present and concerned about Joseph and able to send him advice from her experience. Lily also said she talked about the beautiful fish she was seeing in the water around her. There were plenty of fish as well as the dolphins.
Leanne was telling me again about how uptight Joseph is, how he’s just a tight boy, his muscles are so tight, and he never relaxes. After a while, especially after that dolphin contact through Leanne, he did begin to relax. She was standing beside us and I said to her, “Doesn’t Joseph look relaxed now?”
She said, “Yes, he does.”
I asked, as he was lying back in my arms and Lisa was at his head, “Have you ever seen him so relaxed before?”
She said, “Only when he’s asleep.”
I said, “He’s a relaxed kid right now. He’s relaxing quite nicely.”
In the last 20 minutes of the session, Chase and Kat asked everyone to get out of the water except for the clients and one primary therapist. That left Joseph and I, Athena and Carol, Alice with Lily, and Susan with Chris. Just 8 of us.
Coral had been coming up regularly. She treated from a short distance and Joseph became more and more comfortable with her.
Now Abico came and parked herself between Joseph’s feet and little Athena’s head next to us. With Abico in that space, that left only a few inches between them and Abico. Abico would move slightly left and ever so gently touch Athena’s little head. She’d hold there a second or 2. Then she would move right and non-challantly bump Joseph’s feet. Joseph didn’t pull away as before and hardly startled at all. Instead he continued to relax and reached his foot out to touch Abico. Abico swam off and rounded the pool and came back to the same spot.
Abico repeated that maneuver maybe 10 times, staying with us for several minutes, rounding the pool, and coming back. Once, when she turned to round the pool after her series of treatments to Joseph and Athena, she ran the entire length of her body along Joseph’s left side that was facing the pool.
At 3 PM, after lunch, we returned to the conference room to do CST on the tables. Joseph had started CST with a local therapist at home. He always sat up on the table with the therapist seated behind him. He was too uptight, and would not lie down.
That afternoon, on the table, Joseph lay down for the first time in his 7 year CST treatment career. He allowed 3 of us to work on him, with me repeatedly working on his tentorium and temporal bones, while Lisa and Kat worked the fascia of his spine, pelvis, and hips. He allowed about 15 minutes total of ear pull during the 1-1/2 hour CST session from 3 to 4:30 PM.
Ear pull is a way we access the membrane that bisects the brain. On most autistic kids, we find this membrane extraordinarily tight and fibrous. It was on Joseph. In the morning, he wouldn’t let me near it. The gentle pull was uncomfortable for him and he’d jerk away or push my hands away.
It was remarkable that he had relaxed so much in the first day to allow me to concentrate on this area.
IN THE WATER WITH SARAH
Sarah had been paralyzed from the waist down because she had eaten what she described as “massive amounts of tuna sushi”. She was receiving deep tissue massage from Heidi, the massage therapist who also studied CranioSacral Therapy and who accompanied her to the Bahamas. Sarah could now stand and take a few steps with her crutches. She had limited control over her right leg and less control over her left. She had no feeling in her left leg.
In the morning table session, Chas directed us on how to lightly work the femur into the acetabulum, or the hip socket, with a very gentle compression and decompression as she lay on her back with her knees up.
When we went to the dolphin pool, spontaneously, we were in the same formation in the water as the day before. At one end of the platform was Joseph with his 2 therapists, then Athena with her 2 plus mom, then Alice with 2 and mom, then Sarah and myself and Heidi. Sarah was lying on her back on the water, her right side facing the dolphins.We were in the water quite some time, maybe 10 minutes, and we hadn’t had any dolphin direct contact. The dolphins were Exuma and Cayla. I couldn’t tell them apart so I’ll just say “the dolphin” to describe what happened.
I couldn’t help feeling disappointed that they hadn’t come over to us. I wanted the best treatment for Sarah. We believe the dolphins don’t have to touch to treat. They treat with their energy being directed at us from a distance and they treat with the sound vibrations that they emit.
Even though I know this, I was still disappointed. So I began to do what I call “broadcasting.” I began to talk to the dolphins in my mind. I didn’t entreat them to come over. I just began to broadcast, “This is Sarah. She was poisoned by eating too much toxic fish. She is asking for your help. You may see how the toxins have accumulated in her body. She can’t use her left leg. This is Sarah. She was poisoned”
Over and over I continued to say it throughout the session. After I had just said it a couple of times, I began to get replies. This means, I would get sentences in my head that I believe came from the dolphins. They said, “Oh, yes, toxic fish. Yes. We know about that. We have heard about that happening. We know some dolphins that has happened to. We have heard about many others.” One dolphin came over shortly after I started broadcasting. She didn’t just touch her. She positioned her body between Alice’s group next to us and us. She laid her body against the bottoms of Sarah’s feet and stayed there in contact with Sarah’s feet. She then positioned her blowhole under the sole of Sarah’s left foot and blew.
A dolphin’s breath exiting the blowhole is a forceful emitting of air. It comes with a sound. We are told never to touch near there and absolutely never cover it with our hands should we be stroking them and have an opportunity to do so. They don’t like it. This dolphin was purposely putting her blowhole under Susan’s foot. After that, we had regular visits from the dolphins every minute or 2. They would nudge Sarah’s feet, once came under her legs and flipped her left leg upward. I “heard” an instruction from them to turn her left side to them. They nuzzled her head on the left side. Many times they passed directly under us. Once they flipped Sarah with a tail.
When Sarah stood up in the water at the end of the session, the first thing she said was, “My leg feels different. It hurts.”
She could feel her left leg.
She lifted herself up the ladder and instead of waiting to go up the ramp in the wheelchair, she walked, leaning heavily on the railing, but she walked all the way up the 25-foot steep ramp herself, and sat in a chair when she got to the top.
When I saw her in the afternoon, she said she had feeling in her left leg. It felt like a sausage that was too tightly packed. We gave her another hour of table work in the afternoon and then an hour of CST in the warm hotel pool, plus about 10 minutes of exercises to bring the energy up her legs. At the end of that therapy, she said the denseness she felt in her leg had increased. It felt even tighter.
She went from having no feeling in the leg to feeling discomfort. We’d say that was an improvement.
IN THE WATER WITH ALICE
Alice is a 14-year-old autistic girl. She can be a non-stop talker at times, all about Bert and Ernie and her favorite Sesame Street characters. She recites from memory the credits from movies and she talks a lot about “Grandma’s house” where she lives with her mom, Betty, her grandmother and her grandfather, who she calls “Dad”.
On the first 2 days when I was working with Joseph and Sarah, I would occasionally be conscious of Alice talking as we were in the water or on the tables indoors working. She would frequently comment on Joseph’s sounds saying, “Joseph makes these sounds when he is nervous.” Once I heard her say after that, “I was nervous with the dolphins before, too.” Or something like that.
Alice went in the water right away. She had a mask on and she was very active, putting her face in the water and blowing bubbles. Bob was my therapy partner. We encouraged her to lie flat in the water, so as to be more receptive to the dolphin treatment (we think!). For the most part, she wanted to move, talk and blow bubbles.
Her mother came in and Bob supported her as she lay in the water. Alice did lie back quietly at that time and the two of them floated side-by-side, holding hands. We had Coral and Cayla that day and they came to mom, touched her head lightly. I have spoken before about how the treatment comes through the one to the other. I believe this was happening at that time.
While Alice and Betty were floating side by side, I was drawn to put my hand over Alice’s low abdomen. It was the same place that several of the therapists had been working on over the last few days. It involved uterus, ovaries, and descending colon. There was tightness there. As I worked, I glanced over at Bob with Betty. Bob caught my glance at the same time and we both started in surprise. He had his hand on the identical spot on Betty as I did on Alice!
Then a deep quiet came over the 4 of us, what we recognize as a deep processing period. Both Bob and I felt Betty and Alice were enjoying a new level of their relationship created by their joint healing.
Earlier that morning during the indoor 1-1/2 hour table CST, with the help of Kat, we had gone through a series of what we call Completion of Biological Processes. Bob was treating this same low pelvic area on Alice. At the same time, Kat was at Alice’s head and I was on the right abdomen. We were running visualizations, imaginary scenarios concerning her birth process. We were doing this “mind-to-mind” with Alice, non-verbal communication. As we did, we monitored her body for response. As we had positive responses in the form of pulses and changes in her body, so we continued.
We ran 3 processes. One was what we imagined the birth to be with as many facts as we had; for instance, we knew it was a C-section. The second process was an imagined ideal birth, reprogramming cellular information. The third was an 8 month in utero fetal development process. Bob and I felt like that morning’s work continued in the water with the dolphins.
Later, Betty told us that at eight months pregnant, she suffered toxemia and also was going through a divorce.
That deep work in the water lasted about 15 minutes. The dolphins were close by, occasionally touching Betty or Alice. When Betty came out of the water, Alice went back to her cavorting, talking, and blowing bubbles. She often said things in the present, as opposed to her Bert and Ernie perseverations.
On 3 occasions the dolphins came close to her and stayed there. She said as she reached out to stroke them, “Elizabeth, this is easier than I thought!”
She said, “Hello, Coral” to Coral and reached and gave her a kiss. She said, “Alice kissed Coral!”
She carried on a mixed conversation of perseverations and appropriate language.
The significance of this could be lost on anyone or myself if you didn’t know that this was Alice’s third dolphin session. She had come twice before on previous years. At her first dolphin therapy session, they were just hoping to get her to say anything at all because at that time, she had very little speech. Betty told me that the most remarkable thing happened after her very first dolphin session. Alice asked for crayons. She had never done that before. She stayed up late into the night scribbling and drawing on large sheets of paper for hours in the hotel room.
This time when we started on the morning CST session with Joseph, he lay on the table right away. I noticed the profound change in his membrane systems. Even though they were still tight, they were much more malleable than day one.
In the water with the dolphins, Joseph wanted to stand. He seemed calm, which was remarkable. He didn’t want to lie down to be treated. He wanted to stand and watch what was going on. He was making a lot more conversational-type sounds, more variety of sounds, and he was very much connected to what was going on around him.
On several occasions, the dolphins rested beside him. He was able to stroke them, which he did quite willingly.
On the table in the afternoon session, Joseph again was willing to lie on the table. He moved from lying on his side to actually reclining with his head down on the pillow to lying on his belly. He punctuated this with sitting up in between changes, thinking about it for about a minute, and lying down again.
We were able to work with his vertebral column and dural tube, the membrane surrounding the spinal column, as well as his cranial membrane system. I also worked on his liver.
A WORD ABOUT ATHENA:
Chas and Kat assigned us each day to our clients. I was not assigned to Athena, the 4-year-old child born without a corpus callosum and severely developmentally delayed. I never was involved directly with her treatment.
I did feel indirectly involved though. One of the reasons intensives have so much impact on a client’s healing is because we feel everyone’s healing energy positively influences the others and potentializes the therapeutic effect for all.
When I first saw Athena on day one, she sat slumped over in her wheelchair buggy, unable to hold up her head and not connecting with us in any visible way. Each day she became more animated, held up her head more and engaged us with her angelic smile. As I treated Joseph the last day, more than once I caught her gaze from the next table. She gave me a big smile every time and looked directly at me.
On that last day, she sat upright in her chair and looked at us. More than that, she looked often at the person who was speaking, especially if they were speaking about her. It was apparent that she was engaged in the conversation and activity.
These are my best recollections of the participant’s feelings as we gathered for the last time as a group.
Jason, Athena’s father: “I was very moved by the whole week. I’ve been to seminars and things like that before, where we bonded with people while we were there. This is the strongest experience of all. Even the people we didn’t have the opportunity to work with, I feel close to everyone. I felt everyone participated in Athena’s healing and I appreciate that.”
Dianna, Athena’s mom: “I took CST 1 and I’m going to continue studying CST. I know we’ll be back here with Athena and I also want to come back one day as a therapist with the program. Athena normally has frequent seizures. She had some minor ones while she was here. It was like they would start, and we would go into that calm place that we felt during therapy, and the seizure would just go away. It would melt away instead of getting worse like it normally does. I feel so much caring, love from everyone. I can’t put the feelings into words, if I say any more; I’ll just start crying.”
Sarah: “I felt I made progress in my healing and I know it will continue after I leave here.”
Betty: “I can’t see the changes in Alice just yet. I know there will be big changes this year just like there were for Alice after the last 2 programs we did. And even though I may not see the changes, I know grandma will see them. As soon as she picks us up at the airport, she’ll see them and tell me. That’s what happened the last 2 times.”
Leanne: “Joseph is an uptight kid and I could be more relaxed as well. Today when we were walking over here, there were 3 Bahamians, the hotel staff, pushing a cart. We were behind them and I couldn’t walk that slow if I tried. On the other hand, that’s Joseph’s speed.
I can see that he’s using more speech and that when he says something, it has multiple meanings. He’s communicating the best way he can with the sounds he can make.
Joseph was hurrying me out the door this morning to come over here! That’s a first. I’m always the one trying to get him out the door.
I can’t believe it’s the last day. It went so fast. Now he’s used to the schedule. It would be great if it were two weeks.”