Our programs are specialized for children age 3 and over with a wide range of disabilities. Our programs have been in existence since 1997 and our experienced instructors have worked with children with developmental disorders, critical and terminal illness and rare disorders.
Will IDC work with disabled adults?
Although IDC has no specific program for adults, we will evaluate applications for adults on a case by case basis and so long as we can provide a safe program for the participant and the instructor. For more information, please contact our office.
Can my child just come for one day, two days, or three days?
The programs were specifically designed to provide recreation along with it being an educational & enjoyable family experience. Through the years we have found that MOST children need time to adjust to: The new environment (hot & humid), the floating docks, someone new holding them, the life jackets, the whistles, birds, 300+ pound animals next to them & dark salty ocean water. At Island Dolphin Care we want EVERY child to succeed. This often takes a few days of adjusting and assisting the child to be as independent as they can possibly be! When the child & family experience this success the child’s self esteem soars to new heights. With the addition of educational & recreational interventions, children often progress meeting new milestones. At Island Dolphin Care each child is on a private dock. They have their own instructor & dolphin. There is time to assist them to be successful. The 5 day program insures that there is plenty of time to achieve this as well as time to include siblings in the activities.
One day programs can be more challenging – if a child is fearful, anxious or the vest does not fit or feel good they would leave having a sense of failure. In a public swim program there can be up to 6 others from the general public on the dock. This can be overwhelming to a child with sensory issues & disabilities. During a program such as one offered to the general public there is little time to assist a child to adjust as there are others waiting for their turn – the program must go on as planned.
How often will siblings be involved in the program?
It is up to each family to discuss their individual goals with the IDC team & also make their wishes known on the application. If the goals of the family are to have a recreational program & to have a family fun vacation then the IDC team will include parents or siblings on the dock & classrooms. Siblings are always included in classrooms as long as they are not distracting to the goals of the family. If the goals of the family are educational, i.e.: to increase communication skills or to increase fine and gross motor skills and require more intensive intervention, the classroom component may or may not include siblings. Each family’s program is designed to meet their individual needs. Instructors will discuss the goals and sibling participation with each family and determine a plan together. Our team always makes every attempt to invite full participation of all family members as long as it meets with their goals and can increase the potential of promoting a positive outcome. Siblings are always invited into the water at least one time during the 5-day program (usually on Thursdays) Siblings need to be 3 years old or older to be allowed into the water, to be well behaved, and able to follow directions well. *Please note that the docks are floating and cannot accommodate everyone in the family at the same time. Usually one parent is able to be on the dock daily and a sibling as long as they are old enough to sit and be helpful. If you wish to purchase a swim for siblings of their own this can be accomplished as long as they can speak & understand English, and are 7 years old or older (children under 13 must be accompanied by an adult).
Do parents go into the water with the children & Dolphins?
At the end of the 5-day program (Friday) there is a natural swim (please read the description of this swim in the application). In this setting ONE parent will swim holding their child. This parent MUST be able to swim well & propel themselves using their feet only (they will be wearing fins) this is a beautiful swim and a great way to celebrate the end of the week. If parents wish to have their own experience with the dolphins an additional swim for them can be purchased at an additional fee.
What does the daily schedule look like? Do parents stay and watch?
Click here for an example of the weekly schedule Parents or guardians are required to stay with their child at all times at the facility. We encourage family participation and hope that family members will learn new ideas & techniques to take home with them to share with therapists & teachers at home.
Do you provide accommodations?
Families do not stay on the premises. Once your child has been accepted to participate in the program and a reservation has been made you will be sent a confirmation packet with information about Key Largo hotels, condominiums & rental options. Certainly you can also check with the Chamber of Commerce website for Key Largo for their recommendations.
What are the closest airports? How will I get there?
Miami International Airport is approximately one hour from Key Largo. Fort Lauderdale International Airport is one hour and 15 minutes from Key Largo. You can rent a car at either airport or use a car service to bring you to Key Largo. If you choose to use a car service, you can rent a car once you are in Key Largo. Please be aware that Key Largo is a small community that does not offer public transportation. Taxis are available and expensive – to get one you must call and order one by phone.
What populations or diagnoses do you have experience working with?
Island Dolphin Care has been providing programs since 1997. There have been thousands of individuals participating in our programs. Our instructors have extensive experience working with children with developmental disabilities, critical & terminal health issues, as well as extremely rare disorders some such as Angelman syndrome, rett syndrome, san filipo disease, luekodystrophy, tay sachs, chromosome deletions, mitochondrial disorders, Apert syndrome, and TBI.
How much progress will my child make?
Progress made at Island Dolphin Care is a very individual process just as formulating goals for the program. Goals must be realistic to the participant as well as the time spent at IDC. There are some children that will not progress or change – and others that will make outstanding progress. Dolphins do not provide medical miracles. Our instructors are skilled and work very hard to assist each family. They often provide families with new ideas & techniques that they have not tried before. Often this in combination with the motivating and fun filled environment as the catalyst for change to occur. What you can count on is the family having a once in a lifetime experience that is fun packed, builds self-esteem and provides cherished memories.
Why do I need a video as part of the application? What should it include?
The video that is required assists IDC to see how the child functions. It also gives the staff the ability to see that we can provide a safe and fun program for the participant. Often participants look or sound different on paper – this gives the IDC team the opportunity to meet the participant and family. The video enables the team to choose the most appropriate instructor & dolphin for each child as well as to plan the sessions. When making the video include what the child is capable of doing and what they are not capable of doing example: If the child cannot walk show how they get around – do they have special equipment needs? Do they have a motorized wheelchair that they operate independently? How do they communicate their needs? Can they follow simple directions? What are they working on in therapy or school?
What does the program cost?
The program costs $2,200 for a 5-day program.
Are the dolphins in the ocean or a cement pool?
The dolphins are contained in a natural ocean lagoon. The lagoon is located on a residential canal that opens to the Atlantic Ocean. The water is subject to the tide and the canal is one of the cleanest canals in the upper keys. The water is 16 feet deep. Parents and guardians must be able to lift the participant from the water.
Do dolphins heal?
There is no scientific proof that they heal nor is their proof that they do not heal. A child with a diagnosis leaves with that same diagnosis. At Island Dolphin Care we believe that when a child makes progress it is because they are in an environment that is highly motivating. Participants are relaxed, welcomed and not judged for having a disability. All session focus on ability not disability, thus motivating them to try tasks that they otherwise might be hesitant to try for fear of failure. Once children see themselves doing something new and watch their families’ pleased reactions, they are excited to attempt the next developmental steps.
Is there an age requirement?
Yes. Children must be at least 3 years old to participate. For them to be successful here they should enjoy swimming in the water, not fear animals, and allow strangers to hold them. There is no maximum age limit as long as we can provide a safe and fun program while holding them in the water. The water is 16 feet deep and there is not the ability to stand or hold onto a side of the lagoon anywhere. Parents & guardians must be able to lift the participant from the water.
Is swimming with dolphins good for everyone?
This program is NOT good for everyone. If a child has biting, hitting, and other negative/aggressive behaviors the instructor would have to spend the majority of time redirecting behaviors this would not be a good program. If the child is afraid of animals and water this is not good for them, nor is it a good choice if they will not allow strangers to hold them in the water or wear a life jacket.
What else can I do in Key Largo?
There are so many things to do in Key Largo & South Florida! Key Largo is the dive capitol of the world and offers some of the best snorkeling, diving and fishing. Many families enjoy trips to the Everglades, kayaking, boating, enviro-tours, exploring the islands and Key West. You can parasail, hand feed 200 pound tarpon, enjoy beautiful sunsets, relax by your pool or shop till you drop! And that is not all – The Keys are home to some of the best fish restaurants and Key Lime Pies – You have not lived until you have enjoyed one of the best cheeseburgers served right here at Island Dolphin Care at our Wednesday Family Picnic.
I want more sessions for my child – are there any options for this?
Yes! If you wish to have more sessions, you can purchase a double swim & double classroom – (double the price!)
If you wish to have physical therapy, massage therapy, cranial sacral therapy, or other services you can purchase and schedule individual sessions for an additional fee.