Photo Credit: Seeach Sod

Summer can’t come soon enough for kids with special needs and their parents. Thanks to Seeach Sod, Israel’s leading center for special education, children with special needs have access to the services and support that they need to flourish, all year round.

Seeach Sod was founded by Rabbi Dov Levy z”l, who had a child with Downs Syndrome before there were any services or awareness about special needs. With nowhere to turn, he established Seeach Sod in 1971 to provide a religious educational framework for his son and other children with special needs.

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Understanding the importance of schedule and routine for kids with special needs, Seeach Sod extends the school year, by creating a special camp experience for the kids for an additional three weeks in August, right after Tisha B’av.. Sue Lachman, mother of Seeach Sod student, Refoel Lachman (14), knows the importance of structure all too well. “He loves going to school,” Mrs. Lachman said, “But we decided to give him a day off and take him fruit picking with his nephews. We thought he would like it but he went berserk because he just wanted to be in school.”

To make sure that kids stay grounded, Seeach Sod handcrafts the summer program to make sure that each participant is being stimulated, challenged and supported according to his or her needs. The Kaytana (summer camp) takes place from 8AM-4PM every day with participants ranging in age from 5 to 21 years old. With special art projects, local trips and outings, “We make sure camp has all of the approaches that are perfect for each participant. Each week we do something fun and unique with different types of trips” Chaim Hirshman, Group Home Men Division Manager revealed. To accommodate higher-functioning special needs people Seeach Sod is highlighting a 5-day camp in Mitzpe Yericho, and features a Shabbaton, jeeping, roping, boating, sports and many other thrilling activities.

It’s an incredible amount of work but it pays off. “We organize three weeks of fun so they will return rejuvenated and ready to face the New Year,” Hirshman said. For most schools, end of year signifies a mark of growth for students. At Seeach Sod, the camp is their litmus test. “During camp time, we see how the residents are changing, growing and improving,” Rabbi Dovid Levy, Director of the Welfare Department and son of Rabbi Dov Levy z”l, said. “It puts them in an amazing mood. Additionally, when we see that when they are in a good space, their physical health is better. It impacts the entire year. Each year, we analyze the results and try and improve upon them the following year.”

Early on, Seeach Sod recognized that a crucial part of their work is to provide parents with a respite in order to rejuvenate and ensure they have the strength and energy to be fully present with their children. One of the ways they do that is with their Nofshon Respite program. If a parent needs to go away for a few nights, they can bring their child to the respite center, which functions like a mini-hotel, where they sleep over and spend their days doing activities and trips.

There are 15 nights during the year when parents can send their kids to the nofshon. “The fact that Refoel can go to the nofshon where we know that he’s safe is important,” Mrs. Lachman said. “During the summer, the staff works to give the parents a true break.”

“During the summer camp period, Seeach Sod adds extra staff so kids can go straight from kaytana to nofshon and parents can get a break,” Hirshman explained.

“He loves going to the nofshon. They take him out and do fun things with him,” Lachman added, “They have it all set up for us so that summer isn’t too difficult, which is wonderful.”

The summer program is so successful that other kids feel a bit left out. “The parents tell us that the other kids in their household are wondering why they don’t have these kinds of activities,” Rabbi Levy claimed. “So this year, we are offering each Seeach Sod resident to invite their siblings and family and spend a fun-filled day at a huge park with us.”

Knowing how hard they work, Seeach Sod also organizes a day of fun for the summer staff. “It’s not simple. They are working all the time while everyone else is on vacation and these aren’t easy weeks of work,” Rabbi Levy explained.

For the Lachman’s Seeach Sod’s dedication is not a surprise. “Everything they do is really special. They truly love everyone,” Mrs. Lachman said.

With a full heart, Seeach Sod staff creates unforgettable experiences for kids with special needs. “The smile that we see at the end of the summer is worth all the hard work,” Rabbi Levy said. “This gives us and the children the energy to start again from the beginning.” With Seeach Sod, summer is now something to look forward to for everyone.

For more information about Seeach Sod visit their website at: http://charidy.com/seso

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