The wonder of elephants! While animals for therapy is not an entirely new concept, the use of elephants for therapy is.
Horses and dogs are popular animals that have been used for years to help disabled children and others. Now, the newest animals to join the therapy group are elephants! They’re being used to help children in places such as South Africa and Jerusalem.
One psychologist who works with disabled children in South Africa is leading the way with this interesting animal therapy. Part of Dr. Hennie Swanepoel’s therapy is to help local disabled children to develop skills and capabilities to overcome their disabilities. And elephants are a part of his process.
“Elephants are gentile with their young and are protective,” Dr. Swanepoel says. “They seem to sense when they are near a child or disabled individual.”
One of Dr. Swanepoel’s patients is a 10-year-old Rentia. Rentia was born without eyes and was very insecure in her surroundings and her movements—until she began therapy with the elephant Boelie. Every time Rentia learned a new skill, such as buttoning her shirt or reading Braille, she was rewarded with a visit to see Boelie. This therapy worked wonders for Rentia. Before she started therapy, she was afraid to use the bathroom alone, go camping and even walk on different types of ground. After three months of therapy with Boelie, Rentia had acquired all the skills listed above, and more.
While using an elephant for a little girl’s therapy seems strange and unusual, it is the strange and unusual that often has the most magical results.
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