Ezer Mizion’s Children’s Division is a national resource that provides a vast array of services for handicapped, high-risk and developmentally delayed children and their caregivers. The range of issues addressed is broad. The professional services and care offered enable the children to advance and reach their full potential.
We all have our challenges in raising our children. How comforting it is to hear from another more experienced mother that your child’s behavior, as exasperating as it is, is normal. But what about when it is not normal? When your child, the tiny infant you held in your arms with such hopes, is diagnosed with autism? The devastation, the fears for the future are immeasurable. Your day-to-day, minute-to-minute life will never be the same. Your other children are tremendously affected. Family ties fall apart. You desperately need support. Ezer Mizion had undertaken a support group for these mothers. The group served as a place where they could finally feel that people understood their unique challenge. They received practical tools and a lot of emotional energy to deal with the day-to-day challenges facing them. Some of them commuted two hours in each direction to attend the meetings because they gained such a huge benefit from their participation.
Many modes of assistance exist within the framework of Ezer Mzion’s programs. In 1988, Ezer Mizion opened Israel’s first summer camp for children with special needs. Since then, the network of Ezer Mizion special needs summer camps has grown to include 7 camps, over 1,500 staff members and volunteers and over 1,200 children with physical handicaps, brain damage, cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, autism, blindness, deafness and emotional disorders. For these youngsters and their families, Ezer Mizion’s summer camps are the highlight of the entire year.
During the year, Support Programs, Awareness Evenings provide direction for parents. Early Intervention Programs and Day Care enable the autistic child to move forward.
When 2 year-old Gilad was first enrolled in Ezer Mizion’s “Ma’on Shaked” Rehabilitative Day Care Center for Autistic Children, he couldn’t tolerate anyone sitting next to him. When anyone came near him, he would lash out in all directions, screaming and hitting. Today, the blue-eyed blond-haired child is very much part of the group. “Whenever he sees me, he motions me to caress him,” says Wolfgur. This seemingly miraculous transformation of a child who once would have been relegated to the “hopeless” category is a striking testament to the success of the experimental program, which was initiated just one year ago, in response to an urgent request by the Ministries of Social Services and Health. “These children are a riddle to their parents,” notes Wolfgur. “Most of them don’t speak, don’t communicate through gestures. Often the parents feel responsible for their condition. But today we know that autism is a developmental, neurological problem, and not psychological. The Center’s staff maps each child’s needs and builds an individual treatment program for him . The Center’s major goal is to encourage each child to interact with other people and to develop communication skills, which will significantly improve quality of life for the child and his family. Some of the children can eventually be mainstreamed into a regular educational framework with the help of a mentor.
Nurit is a striking little three year -old girl, a dead ringer for Shirley Temple with her green eyes, dimples and blonde curls. But although she is physically developed – she sits and stands and walks on her own in an age-appropriate manner, the little girl’s beautiful eyes are expressionless, and her socialization and communications skills are severely undeveloped. Nurit suffers from autism/PDD (pervasive developmental disorders) – a neurological disorder that affects a child’s ability to communicate, understand language, play, and relate to others. But the little girl had another severe problem: she refused to eat. As a result, she was physically frail with limited motor abilities. After months of laborious work, Nurit has finally begun to agree to eat! As a result, her overall health has improved: she has gained weight and is more attentive, responsive and energetic. Efforts are now being focused on developing her communication and social skills.
Sara displayed extreme social anxiety and various other challenges. Her teachers tried but she was not moving forward. Each day Mommy found it harder and harder to send her off to school with a hopeful smile. It was so difficult to face but face it they must. Then it came. The dreaded phone call. The school was requesting a meeting. The parents were certain of what they would be hearing. Probably a cold, professional assessment in clipped tones, “We’re sorry. Your daughter is not adjusting. We suggest that you look for another school…” But they were wrong. Oh, how wrong they were! In the course of the year, she received paramedical therapy, with an emphasis on the communication aspect and the DIR method. Slowly but surely, Sara began making eye contact with the staff and even showing affection during the therapy sessions. In addition, she learned to play functionally with educational games and began producing her first words.
The inability to communicate often greatly affects both the child’s ability to perform and his relationship with his family. Ezer Mizion’s AAC Division Loan Center is the only one of its kind in the Middle East for speech generating devices and one of the few existing in the entire world. It’s mission is not only to support and empower people and families confronted by the distressing reality of communication impairment but also to upgrade communication and therapy options by partnering in the development of communication technology and devices and to educating and influencing those in the professional communication field and end-users to tap in to the most updated AAC solutions.
The need is great. The options are vast. Your generosity will enable Ezer Mizion to continue its mission in providing resources for families whose lives have been turned upside down with the birth of an autistic child.