W5 investigates controversial treatment for autistic children, Saturday on CTV

Premiering this Saturday, Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. ET on CTV, W5 host and Chief Correspondent Lloyd Robertson takes viewers inside an investigation into dolphin-assisted therapy.

“Unlocking Alex” looks at one family’s pursuit of a miracle treatment in hopes of helping their severely autistic child. W5’s cameras capture remarkable therapy sessions as the seven-year-old girl seemingly responds to interaction with her dolphin “therapist”, Leena.

In “Unlocking Alex”, W5’s Robertson heads to the Curacao Dolphin Therapy and Research Center, joining parents Wendy and Peter Garish as they embark on a hope-filled search to improve the quality of their daughter Alex’s life.

Suffering from severe autism that has left her mostly non-verbal and prone to outbursts, her family was given an opportunity for the controversial treatment by a charity.

Followed by the W5 team throughout the two weeks of therapy, Alex first resists even getting in the water with the dolphin. But, day-by-day, the little girl begins to respond, eventually communicating with her parents in ways she never had before.

While many claim dolphin-assisted therapy is a highly effective treatment, some claim it is a very expensive placebo with no scientific merit.

W5 speaks to research scientists and animal experts with vastly different views on the merits of dolphin-assisted therapy. One expert suggests the therapy is little more than junk science. Another expert tells W5’s Robertson that while there was some questionable science to begin with, most recent studies about how dolphins affect people show very promising results.

Last week, W5’s investigation into allegations of decades-long abuse in a provincially funded institution in Nova Scotia, that was supposed to protect vulnerable children, earned the series nearly 1 million viewers (921,000).*

W5 can also be seen on Investigation Discovery on Tuesdays at 11 p.m. ET, and Wednesdays at 3 a.m. ET, 6 a.m. ET and 12 noon ET; and on demand at CTVNews.ca/W5, the CTV Mobile channel on Bell Mobile TV, and through video on demand partners, such as Bell Fibe TV (visit CTV.ca for local listings).

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