When there is no sunshine, the plant grows awry. It may have sprouted from a healthy seed but the dusky gloom impedes its development. Chanochi was such a plant. He was born perfectly healthy but the sunshine of a loving mommy was missing in his life. It was during his infancy that a sibling passed away and together with the sibling was buried his mommy’s laughter, her joy in her newborn, her desire to nurture. Chanochi was fed. He was diapered. His clothes were kept clean but nothing more. And so Chanochi grew. His body matured. His motor skills developed. But nothing more. He was quite developmentally delayed and did not communicate with others. Ever. He moved from home to school on a daily basis but had no relationships. A childish giggle never escaped his lips. He did not participate in pre-school activities and simply sat there, waiting for the day to end so that another one can begin…so that it also can end…
The situation had been further exacerbated by Chanochi having developed a fever at three months which never went away. He was seen by numerous doctors and has had endless tests of various types, even genetic testing. Until today, the problem persists, and the doctors have no answer other than a faulty internal barometer. The constant needle-poking by strangers without the comfort of Mommy’s loving arms had taken a further toll on his battered spirit. The results: a very sad, withdrawn little boy.
He was eligible for therapy but derived little benefit from the flow of therapists through his home due to his fear of strangers. Leah was different. She was determined. And she was creative. Leah was an Ezer Mizion Developmental Aide.
A developmental aide is not quite a therapist. An occupational therapist does his work. A speech therapist does his and a physiotherapist works in his specific field. A developmental aide is in touch with all the above and develops a holistic treatment approach that takes into account all that the child is receiving from other places. Developmental aides are trained staff members who have extensively studied topics on early childhood development (cognitive, physical, emotional and social). They work under the guidance of the attending PT, OT or ST, who meet with the child for a minimal number of sessions. The developmental aide meets with the child up to 4 times each week and works with the child to reach the therapists goals.
Leah saw that this was not simply a matter of waiting till the child warmed up. Nothing was going to be achieved by one-on-one sessions when the child refused to leave the lap of a family member. No therapeutic play would have any effect if Chanochi simply sat there, imprisoned in his own world, terrified of reaching out to another. There had to be another way. That is when she realized that he needed to have the focus removed from him so that the therapy sessions can take place with him as a bystander. The obvious solution (to an out-of-box thinker like Leah) was to move the sessions to his pre-school. She became a ganenet at Ezer Mizion’s Pre-school for the Developmentally Delayed for a short period of his day involving all the children in activities that were beneficial for them all but actually geared for little Chanochi. With the focus off him, Chanochi felt free to watch the activities. Out of the corner of her eye, Leah monitored his every movement, his every facial change and adjusted the activities accordingly. And s-l-o-w-l-y, Chanochi began to mimic the body movements of his classmates during these activities. It’s been a long haul and there is still a long road to go but Chanochi now makes sounds to communicate his needs. Leah is confident that words will soon follow. What warms her heart the most is the little throaty laugh that often emerges during a fun activity. It’s a shy laugh. A restrained laugh. Like a cautious butterfly peeking out from the dim, gloomy cocoon that had been its world. But a laugh it is!
Developmental Aides are just one of the ways that Ezer Mizion helps families like this. Medical referrals and advocacy, advice in dealing with bureaucracy, medical equipment loan and varied, practical assistance in the home are some of the other services offered by Ezer Mizion at no cost.
Sometimes, as with Chanochi, an extra set of ‘parents’ are needed. Like any parent, Leah and all those involved at Ezer Mizion look forward to watching Chanochi develop into the happy and confident child he was meant to be.