Battling Autism

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From the files of Ezer Mizion’s Rehabilitative Day Care Center for Autistic Children

Nurit was a striking little, three year -old girl, with  green eyes, dimples and blonde curls. But, although she was physically developed – she sat and stood and walked on her own in an age-appropriate manner, the little girl’s beautiful eyes were expressionless, and her socialization and communications skills were 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.

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Staff rallies to find the missing puzzle piece that will help Nurit break through her autistic tendencies.

At Ezer Mizion’s Ma’on Shaked, the Rehabilitative Day Care Center for  Children with Autism that Nurit attended, the staff was on the cutting edge of new developments designed to help children like Nurit. But Nurit’s future looked bleak indeed. Why? You see, in order to develop skills, a child must be able to learn and Nurit was incapable of learning because she was hungry.   Hungry? That seems to have a simple fix. But in Nurit’s case, it did not. She simply refused to eat. A hungry child cannot listen, cooperate or develop. In addition, due to malnutrition, she was weak and frail with limited motor abilities. Every movement was strenuous for her.

The staff at Ezer Mizion rallied. There were internal meetings, meetings with the parents, meetings with a nutritionist. A plan was developed, revised, re-developed until…success! It seemed like a miracle! Nurit began to eat. At first, it was only a small portion of one item offered. Soon scrambled eggs, cheerios, tuna, tomatoes, meatballs all joined together to create a physically healthy Nurit.  The new Nurit was able to benefit from the therapy given by Ezer Mizion’s dedicated staff. She began to progress. Faster. Her parents looked on in awe. A window had opened. Their daughter did have a future relating to others after all.

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Gilad’s parents never dreamed that , given his autism, he would ever be able to relate to his peers in any way but Ezer Mizion did not give up.

Never say never. A trite phrase but one that is very applicable in the day-to-day work at Ezer Mizion’s  Rehabilitative Day Care Center for  Children with Autism . Like Nurit, two-year-old Gilad was autistic. In his case, the autism manifested itself in his absolute refusal to allow anyone to sit near him. If another child did come near him, he would lash out in all directions, screaming and hitting. Socialization was out of the question. It seemed as if the simplest interaction would never be part of Gilad’s life. Hmmm, never? Staff members refused to accept that premise and a program was created. Today the blond, blue-eyed cherub is transformed. “If I’m very pressed for time, I’ll make sure I don’t pass his group,” said the staff psychologist. “Every time he sees me, he insists that I come over to give him a lengthy hug on my lap.”

Ezer Mizion’s Rehabilitative Day Dare Center, located in the Yaakov Fried Building in Bnei Brak, serves one-and-a-half to three year-old children with Aautism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD). It operates five days a week from 7:30 AM to 4:00 PM, as well as Friday mornings.

The tots in the program enjoy a warm, personal, and loving relationship with the dedicated professional staff that also includes a kindergarten teacher, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and developmental aides – with a ratio of 2 staff members for every child.

Sometimes these children are a riddle to their parents. Many of them don’t speak or communicate through gestures. The situation becomes even more complicated when some  parents even feel responsible for their condition due to outdated material that they have come across on autism. But today we know that autism is a developmental, neurological problem, and not psychological. Parents are not responsible and it is possible to help such children. However, treatment prior to the age of six, when the brain is still flexible, will lead to greater success.

The Center’s staff maps each child’s needs and builds an individual treatment program for him or her. 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. Many of the youngsters have registered major improvement and some of the children can eventually be mainstreamed into a regular educational framework with the help of a mentor.

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