In a similar vein, Otsar’s respite program provides caregivers with a break from the often challenging demands of raising a developmentally disabled child, with respite available in home or in another location, for either several hours or even several days at a time.
“Raising any kid can be exhausting,” observed Bloom. “Add in a special needs child and it can be overwhelming, particularly before the Yomim Tovim or if someone is making a simcha and just needs extra help.”
While school and camp keep children occupied for a vast majority of the calendar year, the final two weeks of summer between camp and school can be extremely taxing for parents of special needs children.
“It is hard enough finding programs for average kids, let alone when they have serious developmental issues,” said Bloom.
Enter Otsar’s Mini Day Camp, a two week program designed to entertain children in a structured environment, giving parents an opportunity to prepare for the upcoming school year. This year’s day camp program will run from August 19th through August 30th.
“We have done mini golf, horseback riding, we have done trips. This is what parents need and this is our mission,” declared Bloom.
Otsar’s senior citizen’s program began in 1985 and has been giving the older developmentally disabled population meaningful activities to fill their day.
“These people had to retire as they got older but where were they going to go?” asked Bloom. “We developed a seniors program just for them so that they would feel involved and busy. We don’t believe in warehousing people and just sitting them down in front of a video. There are projects and other activities so that everyone has a full and productive day.”
Over time, the senior program evolved into a day habilitation program.
“We had people who were in between,” said Bloom. “They couldn’t work full time, but they needed more than day care. We have them out within the community about fifty percent of the time, volunteering at a gemach, packaging foods for caterers, doing mailings for yeshivos and packing up silverware packets.”
Day hab is an integral part of Otsar’s services, providing meaningful daily activities for young adults, adults and senior citizens, with a variety of programs designed to promote personal growth and independence as well as an all- important sense of self. Every participant has a personalized development plan, designed to help each one achieve their potential and encouraging them to become vital contributing members of the community.
Otsar’s Chevra, a recently opened day hab program currently serving twelve men, gives participants the opportunity to contribute to the local community in a meaningful way while also providing them with healthy recreational outlets.
“It is a mixture of working and seeing the world,” explained Bloom. “We take them on trips and also try to get them jobs. They have helped taping boxes in Glatt Mart, cleaning shelves in a Judaica store, working for Tomchei Shabbos, Aishel Shabbat, a medical supply place and a few just started working this week in Pomegranate. We are so grateful to all of these places for giving us this opportunity, so that these men, with mild developmental disabilities, are not just sitting around. They know what it means to give back to the community and they want to give back and this gives them the ability to feel productive.”
“They need the socialization and they want to be ‘one of the guys,’” added Bloom. “They truly enjoy this weekend recreational program. We try to get them out in the community as much as we can and we are also careful to emphasize good health and nutrition.”
Bloom stressed the importance of helping each person who comes through their doors to maximize their own skills.
“We have them preparing salads, peeling their own potatoes. We try to get each person to the top of their particular skill level, because the more they can do the better opportunities they will have. We help them to do the best they can to realize their full potential.”
Otsar’s preschool program has been extremely successful according to Bloom.
“Our Early Childhood program is mostly for kids that have delays and at this age eighty percent of our students will catch up to their peers and end up in a regular school,” said Bloom. “Parents are thrilled to have their kids in our program so that the youngsters can catch up and have the chance to hopefully learn in a mainstream setting. Some of our parents have told us that they have seen improvements in their children in just three months that others had told them should take over a year.”
About the Author: Sandy Eller is a freelance writer who writes for numerous websites, newspapers, magazines and many private clients. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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