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December 2010



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First Published Wednesday, 27th August, 2008.

The term ‘therapy’ in terms of assisting children and adults on the spectrum to live fulfilling lives, does not sit comfortably with many.  That is, unless we’re talking speech therapy or occupational therapy and the like.  Why the hang-up with the term ‘therapy’ you may ask?  Well, perhaps this is derived from the notion that an autistic person requires ‘fixing’ and the fact that many and varied ‘therapies and treatments’ that autistic children and adults have been subjected to over the years have been damaging and abusive.   Many would say, when it comes to animals(such as horses, dolphins, cats and dogs), why must we use the term ‘therapy’?  Why not just allow it to be that which it is – the age-old and very natural enjoyment of animals and nature?

Regardless of terminology applied here, the following article provides us with an interesting read and it certainly sounds as though the ‘elephant project’ is a wonderful and enjoyable experience for many.   That it is benefiting those who are depressed and/or have phobias deserves recognition.   It also highlights the fact that there are around 200 000 autistic people recorded in Thailand.  So, view it as ‘therapy’ if you must, but I have to admit, were I to engage my autistic son with an elephant ride(his Uncle, my brother-in-law is Sri Lankan so this would not be totally unthinkable), I would smile at him and say “Ready for your elephant adventure ride, honey?”  Sounds so much better than “Ready for your elephant therapy:).  No?”

Enjoy the read:)…

Elephant therapy to treat depression



Researchers from Chiang Mai University (CMU) have a new means of fighting phobias and depression _ elephants. CMU had previously studied the effects of ”elephant therapy” on autistic children and, having noted promising results, are now proposing a similar programme for people suffering from depression or phobias.

Audomsark Haesungcharern, dean of CMU’s associated medical sciences faculty, believes the animals’ voice may have therapeutic qualities.

Dr Audomsark says studies have found elephant calls contain infra sound, which is a relaxation tone, and ultra sound, which can engender active emotions.

It is these qualities, as well as previous results with autistic children, that lead the CMU researchers to believe elephants could help depressed people, or individuals with a phobia.

The elephant therapy scheme is jointly run by the CMU and the Forest Industry Organisation’s (FIO) Thai Elephant Conservation Centre in Lampang.

The two organisations yesterday signed a Memorandum of Understanding to further develop their elephant therapy programme for autistic people aged between nine and 19.

The studies began last year and looked into the effects on four autistic children of their interactions with elephants.

Results suggested an improvement in a number of areas, such as self-reliance and social reactions, after spending time with the elephants.

”[The results] were beyond our expectations. This has encouraged us to continue the study into how the elephants can help relieve the symptoms [of certain mental disorders],” said Dr Audomsark.

Nuntanee Satiansukpong, who heads the elephant therapy project, explained that under the treatment scheme, autistic children will be matched with elephants based on their personalities.

For example, hyperactive children will be paired with calm elephants, while introverted children will be matched with enthusiastic elephants.

”An autistic boy who had never talked with or even hugged his parents did so after attending the elephant therapy project,” she said.

The CMU and FIO plan to set up an elephant therapy centre once the study is completed.

There are around 200,000 autistic people recorded in Thailand.

Many medical researchers worldwide have found animal-assisted therapy to be of benefit to autistic people. Horses, dogs and dolphins are considered to have potential in this regard.

Prasop Tipprasert, the FIO’s elephant specialist, said the centre had trained 20 elephants to work with children.

He said that safety is the most important concern, so all elephants are tamed and kept under close supervision.

Source: http://www.bangkokpost.com/260808_News/26Aug2008_news15.php

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