Muscat: Parents of disabled children should be encouraged to let the children out of the house and take diving lessons, which would instil a sense of confidence in them.
At a meeting organised by the Oman Disabled Divers (ODD) and the International Association for Handicapped Divers (IAHD) from the Netherlands, it was said that most disabled children, as well as adults, are confined within closed spaces and should instead be encouraged to take on an activity, such as diving which is considered a hobby and a form of therapy.
“They will become happier and they will be free. They will also be able to boast that they are divers. It will even give them more encouragement,” said Gerard Oijnhausen, managing director of IAHD.
“I see diving as a form of therapy for the handicapped, but later they can take it on as a hobby. In the water they are freer,” he added.
Oijnhausen explained that everybody has a hard time learning to dive, but things should be approached step by step. After completing their training, the disabled children will become qualified divers, but as a safety precaution they should not dive alone, and must have at least two people accompanying each individual.
According to Oijnhausen, five to seven students out of 10 succeed in diving and that is thanks to dolphins. Dolphins are used as “therapeutic trainers” for the disabled children, where they are encouraged to touch and feel the dolphin to train their motor skills.
“The training takes two weeks and costs 6,000 Euros (OMR2,613) but it has a high success rate. Believe it or not, the children prefer to train with the dolphin than with a human trainer,” said Oijnhausen.
“The dolphins are one of the most intelligent animals in the planet. We train them using a high pitch whistle and in the end they voluntarily help the disabled. If they know there is a disabled person in the water, they would go to them automatically,” he added.
ODD and IAHD are working together to “employ” a dolphin in Oman to help the disabled and offer therapeutic benefits.
Oijnhausen believes that if dolphins are introduced in the Sultanate for disabled children, more people would be inclined to send their children to therapy with the marine mammal.
ODD Founder Tariq Al Khabori also encouraged Omanis to volunteer and join ODD as instructors to make up for the organisation’s lack of employees and enjoy several benefits. Currently, ODD has only two instructors, who are training 30 to 40 children per year.
“We want anyone to volunteer and we will train them on all fronts. At the end of training, the volunteers will be qualified diving instructors and specialists in training disable children,” said Al Khabori.
“People should take this as a social responsibility,” he added, encouraging people to step up to become instructors.