It hurts every time people look at Adam and see only the deformity of their own perceptions, instead of the beauty before their own eyes. But more and more, I feel this pain not for my son but for the people who are too blind to see him. The lessons I have learned from Adam have hurt than just about anything else I ever felt in my life. And it's been worth it, a thousand times over.

Expecting Adam, by Martha Beck

dolphin encounters for disabled children + adults

A favorite Dolphin Research Center program, allowing people to enter the dolphins environment and participate in a playful, structured swim session with the dolphins. Participation in educational workshops completes the experience. The program costs $135 per person and requires advance reservations. Minimum age is 5 years old. Children ages 5 - 12 must have an adult in the water with them for the swim. Understanding of spoken English is required.

Reservations can be made the month before you wish to swim. Call the reservation line in Florida on (305) 289-0002. For a reservation schedule and more information about the program, click here. Absolutely no reservations will be accepted by mail, fax or email.

dolphin child program

The Dolphin Child Department offers dolphin-assisted therapy and recreational programs for individuals and small groups. The results are carried over into school, home and community. DRCís commitment to providing life enhancing dolphin experiences to adults and children with special needs, illnesses, and disabilities, touch families from all over the world.

Our dolphin interactions act as therapeutic adjuncts, serve as agents of change, and represent contacts with nature, as well as increase the capacity for enjoyment through the Dolphin Child Therapy Program and the Special Needs Recreational Program.

For more information in our Dolphin / Child Therapy Program contact Joan Mehew, Director of Dolphin / Child Department on:

For more information in our Special Needs Recreational Program contact Kathryn Campbell, Special Needs Coordinator on:

volunteer for the dolphin research center

The Dolphin Research Center is pleased to offer volunteer opportunities designed for individuals who would like to donate their efforts to assist the various departments of our organization. Although volunteers do not work directly with the dolphins, participants do encounter many unique opportunities for learning about, and experiencing, various aspects of the daily operations of a marine mammal care facility.

The mission of the Volunteer Resources Department is to assist the paid DRC staff by providing a supplemental work force capable of accomplishing daily tasks, as well as special projects, thereby enabling the paid staff resources to concentrate on those areas where their knowledge and expertise can be put to the most efficient and effective use.

The responsibilities typically handled by our volunteers all represent vital aspects of our operations. Volunteers may find themselves working in our fish house helping to prepare our dolphins' meals, or feeding and caring for our family of exotic birds. We utilize volunteers for assistance with the public through duties which include shadowing tour groups, answering questions, or monitoring swim with the dolphin sessions.

Volunteers are involved with facility maintenance, helping with everything from trash collection to painting and landscaping projects. Observing and assisting with the collection of research data is another area that volunteers may be involved in, as is helping with administrative projects such as computer data entry and preparing bulk mailings.

Our Volunteer Resources Department is staffed throughout the year. Applicants must be eighteen (18) years of age or older and have the ability to communicate well in spoken and written English. While we do offer flexibility, most of our non-local volunteers work 30 to 40 hours per week, and a four to eight week commitment is usually required.

We ask our local volunteers to contribute at least one day per week. Although they do not receive wages, we do expect all volunteers to regard their work with us with the same dedication that they would extend to a paying job. At times the work can be physically strenuous, or even mundane, but the satisfaction that comes from sharing in the care of our dolphins can offer rewards beyond measure.

Within our Volunteer Resources Department, we offer an Intern Program designed primarily for students interested in donating their efforts in exchange for credit from their college or university. Regular internships involve concentration in a specific department, are normally 3 to 4 months in length, and are typically held during the summer, fall, and winter terms.

Intern applications and job descriptions are available below. If you have additional questions, you may call the Volunteer Resources Department at (305) 289-1121 x 230, access information here, or send an e-mail to

* People who live outside the US may like to contact us about similar programs in your country or a country near you.

Copyright 2002 The Dolphin Research Center.

Befriending a Person with a Disability

1. Special Gifting Or Not

You do not have to have a "special gifting" to work with people with disabilities. You will soon find out that they are a person too that wants love and acceptance just like anybody else.

2. General Rule Of Thumb

Treat a person with a disability the same way that you would want to be treated.

3. Have Open Eyes

Be aware of what God wants to show you and what you can learn from a person with a disability.

4. See Their Ability

Look for a person's ability rather that their disability. You can also help them see their own abilities.

5. Listen To Them

Be genuine and let them know you care. Take the time to listen. Ask questions. People with disabilities want to be known the same as you or me.

6. Look Into Their Eyes

Look a person with a disability in the eyes and remember that they are people with real feelings, hopes and dreams. Donít concentrate on what is making you feel uncomfortable (i.e. their wheelchair, physical appearance, etc.), but concentrate on the fact that there is a person behind this physical appearance.

7. Greeting Someone

Donít be afraid to touch a person with a disability - i.e. handshake or shoulder touch. Should I shake their hand? Yes, especially if they move their hand or possibly a prosthetic hand towards you. Remember: Touching communicates acceptance & warmth.

8. Speaking To Someone

Have your voice be tone appropriate to their age. If you donít know if a person can mentally comprehend what you are saying, itís better to speak on a higher level to them. You donít want to insult someone by speaking down to them.

9. Speech Difficulties

When talking to someone that might have a speech impediment and is difficult to understand, the worst thing you can do is to fake that you do know what they said. Itís better to say, "Iím sorry, could you say that again." Itís okay if you have to do this several times. The important part is that you are willing to try and communicate with this person.

10. Speaking Boards

If someone uses a speaking board to communicate you need to be willing to give them time to spell out what they want to say. If they have a speaking board, they probably know how to use it. So donít be afraid to say hi and talk to them. Make them feel welcome just like anybody else.

11. Talking To A Person In A Wheelchair

Stand back so they donít have to look straight up or better yet, sit down to talk to them.

12. Ask If They Want Help

Generally, with any disability, itís always good to ask a person if he or she needs help. Donít just assume that they need help. Be willing to be bold and ask, donít just sit back and hope someone else does it or they will get it themselves.

13. Wheelchairs: Extension of the Body

Itís always good to remember that the wheelchair is an extension of a personís body. You donít just grab a personís arm and say, "Come with me." The same is true for someone in a wheelchair. You shouldnít just grab their wheelchair and start pushing them. You need to ask them if they want some help or would like you to push their chair. Also remember that you shouldnít rest your foot or your hand on someoneís wheelchair, especially if you have just met this person.

14. Pushing Wheelchairs

When pushing a wheelchair, especially if you are playing a game, be in control of the wheelchair. i.e. donít make sharp turns while going fast, and watch out for bumps. The last thing you want is to dump someone out of their wheelchair. Also, donít tip the wheelchair back. This can be scary for them.

Once you start being a friend to a person with a disability, you will soon stop seeing him or her as disabled. You will see a person who desires love, acceptance, and friendship just like we all do. The most important thing to remember is to just relax and be their friend. The rest will come with time.

Contact this wonderful organization now!

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Disability World
Information for mature and disabled travellers
Links and news for disabled travellers
The Association for Retarded Citizens
Download information about The Dolphin Research Center
Volunteer International
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