Reptiles help heal in Brazil
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Reptiles help heal in Brazil

A yellow-and-brown boa constrictor wraps itself around David de Oliveira Gomes's neck like a scarf, but the 15-year-old Brazilian with autism is fascinated, not afraid. For him, this is therapy. "His name is Gold. He's cold. He eats mice," Gomes tells his therapist at a treatment center in Sao Paulo, gently holding the large snake as it slithers around him. That is exactly the kind of sentence his therapist, Andrea Ribeiro, is trying to elicit. She specializes in treating people with disabilities, autism or anxiety, using an unusual method: reptile therapy, which she says helps patients relax and improve their communication, motor skills and other abilities. "He's working on speech and memory formation," the 51-year-old language-speech therapist says of Gomes, sitting at a table with him and the large snake. Ribeiro has pioneered this method over the past decade at the treatment center, which features an open-air space where patients interact with lizards, turtles and a "jacare" -- a kind of alligator native to Latin America that is common in Brazil, including in the Amazon rainforest. The treatment is not scientifically proven. But "it's been medically demonstrated that when people come in contact with animals, it releases neurotransmitters such as serotonin and beta-endorphins that give a sense of pleasure and well-being," says Ribeiro.
SPEAKER

AFP

AFP

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