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Bright sunlight glints off the glassy surface of a Florida lagoon, where a boy named Aubrey drifts through blue- green water, suspended by a bright yellow flotation vest. Nearby, Aubrey’s therapist, a young man named Chris, floats quietly while keeping a close watch on Aubrey. They do not speak, or even touch. Aubrey hates to be touched, and he hardly ever speaks. He has autism—a type of brain disorder that affects his speech and movement, and makes it difficult for him to focus on and relate to other people. Sometimes he will say words when Chris shows him cards with pictures of various objects and animals, but even then he will gaze around the room, not looking at his teacher or thinking about the lesson at hand. He avoids looking people in the eye, even his parents, and it is hard for anyone to hold his attention. But he loves the water, which seems to soothe him when he feels agitated or upset. When Chris promises him a chance to get into the water, Aubrey is often willing to concentrate harder on his speech therapy and other exercises than he ever did before he began to swim. Today has been a good day in the classroom, and now it is time for Aubrey’s reward. As the boy floats along, nod- ding his head and humming softly to himself, Chris sees a graceful, massive gray body gliding up, just under the sur- face of the water. “Here’s Sarah,Aubrey!” he says. In the next moment, the dolphin’s great, bottle-shaped snout pops out of the lagoon, and she gives Aubrey a toothy grin as she holds all eight feet of her sleek body nearly vertical in the salty water, just inches from Aubrey’s astonished face. “Look, Aubrey, Sarah’s come to say hello to you!” calls Chris encouragingly. Then, as the dolphin rolls sideways in the water without making a splash, he adds, “Now she’s ask- ing you to rub her belly! Do you want to?”After a moment’s hesitation, the boy reaches his right hand toward Sarah, and, with one finger, strokes her hairless, rubbery side. “Very good, Aubrey!” says Chris. “What does it feel like? Maybe like a hard-boiled egg, after you take the shell off?” Aubrey doesn’t answer, but his attention is riveted on the big bottlenose dolphin now swimming slowly around him in a close circle. When she stops in front of him and peers into his eyes with her own, the boy returns her gaze. He has never looked into the eyes of any human for more than a second or two, but now he looks into the eyes of Sarah the dolphin for what seems like minutes before looking away. By this time, Chris, his therapist, has paddled over close to the boy. “Aubrey,” he says, “I think today is a perfect day for you to swim with a dolphin, don’t you?” “Swim,” says Aubrey. Chris shows him how to gently take the dolphin’s dorsal fin in his hand and hold on, as 12 Animal Therapist Sarah starts gliding in an easy circle around the lagoon. She goes slowly at first, but steadily gains speed while support- ing the boy’s body along the surface of the water. When she comes to a gentle stop, Aubrey is laughing with joy.

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