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Problem Statement

Autism is a disorder that has only been diagnosed in the twentieth century, and the reason for that is not due to autism being a new disease, but because it has previously been confused with other types of neural development disorders. As a result, autism has only recently become the subject of extensive research, in particular, those studying the stages of development of this disorder and the physiology of autism. It has not been more than 40 years since scientists have begun this kind of research, but what we already know about autism is that it is treatable, and the sooner it is diagnosed, the better the chances are for it to be treated effectively.

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Autism is a developmental disorder that normally becomes apparent during the first three years of life. As of 2011, there were over 1.5 million Americans living with autism and the number is constantly increasing. In the ADDM autism prevalence report of 2009, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that the prevalence of autism had risen to 1 in every 110 births in the United States and almost 1 in 70 in boys. Autism has a spectrum of behavioral and developmental deviations that affect the individual’s ability to interact with the outer world, to communicate and socialize. When treating autism spectrum disorder, the key is teaching children to express their feelings, understand the feelings of others, and interact with surroundings instead of retreating into their own inner world.

When scientists discuss the most effective ways to treat this disorder, dolphin therapy is usually considered one of the pioneering methods that has shown tremendously sound results and helped children with autism rehabilitate much faster. Over the past two decades, there have been thousands of case stories about dolphin therapy’s success in treating autism. However, there can be various obstacles for parents and their children to access the required service. Depending on the geographical location of the family, centers providing dolphin therapy services for children with autism can be as far as six hundred miles away. Travelling such distances regularly, twice or three times a week, with a small child, is close to impossible. As a result, thousands of children with autism are deprived of the chance of getting dolphin therapy sessions in order to treat their disorder much more effectively.

One of the few states where there is not a single dolphin therapy center is Arkansas. In Little Rock alone, there are reportedly over 120 children with autism, and there is not a single dolphin therapy center within a radius of 600 miles from the state capital, which means most of these children do not get the treatment they so desperately need to have a better chance of overcoming the disorder before it is too late.

Problem Solution

Opening a non-profit center for children with autism, and their parents, in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The center would offer a variety of services for the clientele, all free of charge, including dolphin therapy sessions for children diagnosed with autism. The center would also be actively engaged in local awareness-raising actions to promote the earlier diagnosis of autism and raise parents’ awareness of dangerous symptoms. The center will also provide weekly parenting sessions with therapists and, if possible, run a self-help support group for people living with autism.


The center would be run on a volunteer basis, with the only paid positions being the medical therapist and special needs teacher/volunteer coordinator. There are currently nine volunteers working on the project on a daily basis. There are also 10-15 volunteers helping us, from time-to-time, with various organizational and fundraising events. We also already have the support of the local government, which offered us a suitable location for the center—one of the currently unoccupied blocks of the Little Rock Regional Community Hospital.

Budget Request

The $30,000 that the Joe Ballaki Grant Program offers would suffice in opening the center and running it for at least the first year. We also plan to continue holding fundraising events and gaining further support from the local community. By our calculations, we expect up to 200 cases within the first year, which means we will be handling approximately 65% of the Arkansas population living with autism. We also have every reason to expect that our center will attract some outside of the Arkansas populace as well, particularly from Tennessee—another of the few American states that does not yet have a single autism center.

Furthermore, these funds will be used to develop new family support programs and support further research of autism spectrum disorder.

Your contribution will provide the critical foundation for this project that we so eagerly await. Even though this humble initiative of establishing this small local center might seem like a drop in the ocean, those who we will be able to help and ease the heavy burden of local parents taking care of their children with autism will be tremendously grateful for the financial support you can provide. Hopefully, this noble idea will spark a new local movement, as well as enable hundreds of Arkansian families to get the much needed treatment of which they have been unfairly deprived.


Jason Dingly

Project Coordinator

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