|Nobody likes to be viewed as different from the norm. For the child with vision impairment, the emotional challenge of feeling different from his peers is as real as the practical challenges of coping with the physical limitations.
Ezer Mizion's new support group, "Shavim - Equals," provides vision impaired children with an oasis of strength and encouragement.
At the initial stage, Shavim launched one group of ten vision impaired boys, ages six to nine, from the Central Israel area, who meet on a weekly basis and also participate in special activities. The group is coordinated by Tzippy N. and Hila Rachmanov, both special education teachers specializing as supportive teachers for children with vision impairment attending normative educational frameworks. The two were hand-picked by the Ministry of Education to direct the new project.
The Shavim meetings not only give the children a chance to socialize with peers undergoing similar challenges, but also afford them a safe place to vent their frustrations.
At their Lag Ba'omer bonfire, the children "threw into the fire" all the things that cause them anger and discomfort. One child "tossed in" Ichilov Hospital, which he associates with doctors and painful surgery. Another child felt great relief after flinging in his anger at the friends who jeer at his impairment.
The results of the support group are tangible: Yair used to be embarrassed to read large print books. Today, he feels self-assured about it. Chaim and Srulik are comfortable with their thick glasses, even though they are a constant reminder of their impairment.
Parents of vision impaired children are also empowered by the group, and have joined forces to pursue their legal rights. Next on the Shavim agenda is a hike up North, wading in water and following a footpath - the kind of trip most of the families would be afraid to undertake with their vision impaired child. Each child will be partnered with a volunteer, in the goal of giving them the tools and the confidence they need to be independent and manage "just like everyone else".