East Yorkshire man invents dolphin therapy device

Dolphin therapy Joel Collier and his father Nigel have a session in the Dolphin Dome

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A marine engineer has invented a substitute for swimming with dolphins.

The device, called the Dolphin Dome, uses video screens and the sounds of the sea to recreate the sensation of being in the ocean with the animals.

Interacting with the aquatic mammals is claimed to have a beneficial effect for people with certain conditions, such as autism and cerebral palsy.

Paul Obernay hopes his invention will offer a cheaper and more accessible therapy for people with special needs.

He took two years to build the £100,000 prototype in the dining room of his house at Preston, near Hull.

Mr Obernay said he was inspired by his interest in marine wildlife and a belief dolphins should not be kept in captivity.

The unit is an enclosed dome containing video screens with images of dolphins. Coloured lights and dolphin calls are played as the patient lies on the floor.

The device is currently on trial at the Spire hospital in Analby near Hull.

One child trying it out was Joel Collier, aged nine, who has cerebral palsy. His father Nigel said that his son had benefited from the session.

He said: "We had a fair amount of wrestling, but when he noticed the screen up on the roof you could see he was really concentrating on it for a few minutes. So he really enjoyed it."

After the 10-week trial is finished, the unit will be sent to a special school in Perth, Scotland, where the local university will further research in to its potential benefits.

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