Verbal Interactional Synchronization between Therapist and Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder during Dolphin Assisted Therapy: Five Case Studies

Richard Griffioen*, Steffie van der Steen, Ralph F.A. Cox, Theo Verheggen, Marie-Jose Enders - Slegers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Synchronizing behaviors in interactions, such as during turn-taking, are often impaired in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Therapies that focus on turn-taking generally lead to increased social skills, less interruptions, and silent pauses, however a positive non-demanding environment is therefore thought to be beneficial. Such an environment can be achieved by incorporating animals into therapy. Our study was guided by the following research questions: (1) How can we characterize the interaction between child and therapist during dolphin-assisted therapy, with regard to synchrony in verbalizations (turn-taking) and (2) does synchrony change over the course of six sessions of therapy? To answer these questions, we performed a cross-recurrence quantification analysis on behavioral data of five children, to give a detailed view of the interaction between therapist and child in the context of dolphin-assisted therapy. We were able to detect synchrony (i.e., adequate turn-taking) in all dyads, although not all children improved equally. The differences might be explained by a delayed reaction time of some children, and their level of language development
Original languageEnglish
Article number716
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 24 Sep 2019



  • animal assisted interventions
  • autism spectrum disorder
  • dolphin assisted therapy
  • verbal synchrony
  • turn-taking behavior

Cite this