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Dolphins Help Ivan, 6 Speak For First Time

3 June 2006
Family tell how therapy has changed son's life
By Oliver Coleman

A MUM spoke yesterday of her joy after dolphins helped her son speak for the first time at the age of six.

Ivan McGaw had been trapped in a silent world, unable to talk, play or cry.

But now after a trip to the US funded by a public appeal, parents Wendy and Alan heard their son say "mama" and "daddy" for the first time.

They also saw tears trickle down his face for the first time since he was a toddler.

Wendy said yesterday the big breakthrough came just after they came home.

She said: "Me and Alan were in the kitchen and Ivan came in and walked straight up to Alan and said, 'Daddy'.

"We just looked at each other and said, 'Did we just hear that?'

"Alan was choked up and we kept making him say it all day long just to make sure we hadn't been hearing things.

"Then we started encouraging him to say Mummy and a few days later, he looked at me and said, 'Mama'.

"Now he wants to interact all the time ??" if he thinks you've forgotten he's there he'll come up and poke you on the arm."

Ivan was born with corpus callosum, a rare condition in which babies lack the part of the brain that connects the left and right sides.

Wendy said: "It was so frustrating. He could never tell me what he wanted.

"I just felt so helpless as a mother. I felt terrible I didn't know what my son needed."

Wendy, 30, from Dunfermline, Fife, only realised there might be some hope on a family holiday to Majorca in 2004.

Staff at a water park gave Ivan a treat by letting him stroke a dolphin.

Wendy was stunned when Ivan giggled and seemed to have an instant connection with the animal.

And when she looked up dolphin therapy on the internet, she knew she had to find a way to let her son try it.

When Wendy went public with their story, the appeal raised more than 10,000.

That funded a three-week visit to the Island Dolphin Care Centre in Key Largo, Florida.

Each day, Ivan spent an hour with a therapist and another hour swimming with trained dolphins.

Wendy said: "The dolphins seemed fascinated with him.

"Apparently when they make their singing noise, they are scanning you with radar. It gives them an image of you.

"Because Ivan's body is a little bit different, they seemed to love him.

"The dolphins are so soothing and Ivan just seemed to relax."

Wendy said on the day they had to leave, Ivan cried.

She said: "I had a strange feeling because I felt guilty about taking him away, but it felt so nice to know that he could feel emotions."

Ivan is now showing an interest in his brother Shaun, three, for the first time.

Wendy said: "It is as if he has found a door out of the little world he was living in."

Now Wendy and Alan are trying to raise 5000 for another trip to the centre.

On Monday, Braveheart actor Davie McCay will begina1000 - mile sponsored walk around Scotland in aid of the appeal.

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