Montreal family turns to dolphin therapy for daughter with Down Syndrome

MONTREAL – Atara Stolovitsky is not so different from most teenagers. The 17-year-old has her mood swings, loves Justin Bieber, the Montreal Canadiens and of course her mom, Erika.

The only thing that does make her different is that she has down syndrome, which means communication isn’t always easy.

“She’s a very visual learner,” Erika Tencer says. “If I want to understand her, I have to be really visual.”

It takes time, patience and a lot of love but Erika says it’s her job as a mother to do everything she can for her daughter.

That’s why in November, the entire family is heading to Curacao in the Caribbean for a two-week therapy program called Dolphin Therapy. The treatment claims to help people with special needs – including autism and down syndrome.

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Sheila Botton from Dolphin Aid Canada explains, “it’s a rehabilitation process, unlocking and finding new ways of reaching the child.”

But this kind of therapy comes with a hefty price tag.

It costs over $7,000 for the therapy alone, excluding accommodation and flights.

Experts say the treatment lacks scientific proof and might make false promises.

“There’s no research yet on it. It could be effective in the future, says Sasha Zalob from the Yaldei child development centre, “right now there’s nothing that really shows it works and it can be quite expensive and there’s risks also.”

Erika and her family are aware of the risks and the controversy surrounding the therapy.  They still feel that the time and money are worth any result at all.

They’ve been working for months – with Dolphin Aid Canada- to raise enough money for the treatment.  They’re now $4,000 shy of reaching their goal and with how far they’ve come, they believe anything is possible for Atara.

To donate for her treatment visit