On the road to independence

Good article by Lerner, social worker, manager of the Jerusalem branch
When I think of the word independence, I think of all the children of Elijah.
Each and every one of the brave children, strives every day to achieve a little more independence, each in his own unique way.
I chose to share about the hand washing operation, yes, the operation most of us do without noticing several times a day. Shmueli, a magic boy studying at ELA for the third year in a row, cannot perform this “normal” action.

Shmueli is a handsome boy, with a huge captivating smile, Shmueli is diagnosed with blindness and developmental delay.
A baby with blindness undergoes a completely different developmental journey from a seeing child. The challenge in the development of a child with blindness is to be able to reach the child’s inner world and slowly begin to get to know the world.
It is important to recognize the inner motivation that drives him, to connect with her, and to move with him on the unique journey of his life.
For Shmueli it was obvious – the motivation that motivates him is the desire for independence and the way to reach his heart is through a warm bond and love.
Zohar, his kindergarten teacher, recognized his motive and, of course, his ability, and set out with the professional and kindergarten staff on a journey that sometimes feels like a struggle for Shmueli’s independence.
At the beginning of the school year, Zohar announced – “I want Shmueli to wash his hands alone. He can, he understands, we just have to find a way to allow him.” All professional staff; The physiotherapist, the occupational therapist and the communication clinician built the treatment plan, the kindergarten staff received guidance.
And the mission got underway.
Shmueli began his journey, in a special walker adapted for him, he began to walk towards the tap step by step. His steps were accompanied by Eliraz, the maid who did not stop singing, and on the other hand, Zohar, the kindergarten teacher. Along with them the team encouraged him all the way. The journey was not easy, sometimes we raised questions whether it was true, maybe the effort was too great. But the wide smile that would spread across his face that finally reached the tap, heard the water and felt the current through his hands, proved more than anything, that’s the way.
Walking on the treadmill improved slowly and it was time for the second stage – learning to turn on the tap on your own.
One morning, after months of work – it happened !!! Shmueli held out his hand and turned on the tap and felt the water! Water and Sasson flooded the entire residence.
Shmueli stands in front of the tap with his hands in the water and does not stop laughing. This is a declaration of independence. It is the infinite power that can propel feet that cannot walk on their own and eyes that do not see, to be able to understand reaching for the tap and washing hands alone!

How simple, how complex ..
We all naturally want to make the world easy and pleasant for our children we want them to feel safe. We must understand and internalize that when the child feels independent in even the smallest thing – this is the greatest sense of security we can give our child. Only when the child experiences the sense of competence will he develop confidence in his ability to influence the world, the fears and insecurities will diminish.
When we, the professional team of ELI, embark on a journey to develop independence in every boy and girl, we must make a preparation process.
First stage – in-depth acquaintance with the child. It is necessary to understand what is the internal engine that drives the child, what are his loves, where are his powers. Only if we connect to ability and power can we drive the process.
Second stage – a deep understanding of the child’s developmental challenge – an understanding of visual impairment / blindness, and how it affects the developmental process.
Third stage – building a realistic goal that matches the developmental stage in which the child is – It is very important not to set a goal that the child cannot achieve. A sense of failure and inner disappointment can cause emotional damage and reinforce the sense of inability.
Step Four – The goal should be broken down into small, measurable goals. Only after achieving the first goal can you move on to the next goal
The whole process depends on love and trust in the child’s ability, and on the biggest challenge facing parents and caregivers – the ability to release the child’s protection a little.
If the parent / caregiver doubts the child’s ability to achieve his independence, the child will understand the non-verbal message and Japanese that he is still small and incapable, so he will not be able to achieve his independence.
It is important to note that education for independence is an unending journey. We must first be attentive to ourselves, whether this is the most appropriate time for us, for the family, for the specific child. How many energies do I currently have for a process that requires investment, return and a great deal of patience. It is also permissible to choose that at the moment it is not the ideal time and wait for a calmer period.
Thanks to my beloved Samuel who taught us all how much happiness lies in opening a water tap ..
May we be privileged to celebrate independence every day anew!

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