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September 3, 2015 / 19 Elul, 5775
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Israel Offers Superior Services to “Special Needs” Olim


New and veteran immigrant (olim) families, who have a special needs child or adult at home in Israel have access to a variety of government and private sector outreach services, which a growing number of Anglo immigrants claim are superior to many services available in the USA.

New benefits are still being added. For example, last month, the Israeli government announced that wheel-chair bound disabled olim would be entitled to a substantially increased stipend to help pay the rent on their apartments. In addition, new immigrants, who applied for such benefits earlier this year, and who were waited for final approval by the Israeli cabinet, will now receive retroactive rental stipends dating back to May.

Rents for decent apartments in many Israeli cities and towns often exceed 3000 shekels a month (about $750), and until now, wheel-chair bound olim were only entitled to between 800-1500 shekels a month toward their rent. Now, they are eligible for up to 3000 shekels a month in government rent subsidies, which will cover a significant portion of their basic living expenses. New immigrants who suffer from other types of disabilities will also received an increase in their maximum government rent subsidies from 600 to 1200 shekels a month. Single parent families with a disabled person at home are also entitled to rental assistance.

There are many more “quality of life” enhancing programs available through the Israel’s various HMO’s (community clinics), Bituach Leumi (National Health Insurance), hospitals and non-governmental/non-profit organizations (NGO’s). In addition, local municipalities work with both the Ministry of Education and private NGO’s to offer programs serving special needs youngsters and young adults. The growing number of physical and mentally challenged youngsters, especially those with an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), has prompted parents to raise funds for private “after school” clubs and programs. In Modiin, a city with a mushrooming English-speaking immigrant population, there are 7 kindergartens devoted to special needs children that are funded by the Ministry of Education and the local municipality. In addition, a local group of English-speaking parents have formed an after school hours “club” for autistic youngsters.

An American-born medical professional who lives in Central Israel and works in one of the country’s most well-known HMO’s revealed, “Israelis in general are very self-sufficient and find support on their own. There’s also a mutual support system that is very effective, while non-profits play a big role. In Israel, standard ‘socialized care’ makes sure each child has a pediatrician and, until age 5, preventive care (called Tipat Chalav). It’s hard to get lost in such a system. Also, within the socialized care system, a program called ‘Hitpatchut Hayeled’ (Child Development) gives kids developmental pediatric care. It is a fantastic resource for various types of youngsters with special needs. When such a child comes into my office, I refer the parents to ‘Hitpatchut Hayeled’ for evaluation and the appropriate therapies, whether they are available through the HMO’s (Kupat Cholim) or elsewhere.”

English-speaking immigrants who have moved to Northern Israel benefit from the multitude of services provided by the region’s largest medical facility-Rambam Hospital in Haifa. The Children’s Hospital at Rambam (www.rambam.org.il) is Northern Israel’s only hospital exclusively dedicated to pediatric medicine and is anchored in the community. Youngsters and their families turn to it on their own or are referred by family doctors, in-house (hospital) physicians, schools, and social welfare agencies. The hospital takes a personal approach to children, and includes parents as partners in the healing process. Amongst some of the services provided to children with Special Needs by Rambam include an ADHD and Adolescent Clinic, as well as an Eating Disorders Clinic.

The metro Jerusalem region is blessed with a plethora of cutting-edge non-profit organizations that work closely with the English-speaking immigrant community. One such organization is the Tishma School & Center for Children with Autism. Tishma was established in Jerusalem in January, 2001 to provide an intensive behavioral intervention program for children diagnosed with autism. Since opening with one room and just two students, Tishma has expanded rapidly. It now serves 60 students in a rented property in the south of the city.

Tishma provides each child with a customized educational program based on the specific skills that require development and strengthening. The school accepts any child with a formal diagnosis of autism or PDD (Pervasive Development Disorder).

Ruchie Aloof, who made aliyah from New Jersey to the town of Yad Binyamin near Rehovot, and who is the mother of a PDD youngster, didn’t know how much assistance she would receive from the “system” in Israel. “You know, this is not the easiest thing for a parent to deal with, especially in Israel, where you have to be a bit more pushy or, as the saying goes, ‘the more you squeak the more oil you will receive’. What I discovered is that my PDD son is more eligible for various types of assistance than in the USA,” she told the Jewish Press. “For instance, many special needs children are eligible for alternative therapies such as horseback riding and other animal therapies that are subsidized by your insurance. In the USA, they’ve only started to think about this type of therapy. Some youngsters who might not have great verbal skills could be put on a horse and they are actual able to control the animal. It’s amazing to watch. If your child is recognized by Bituach Leumi (National Health Insurance) as having special needs, you will receive a stipend every month towards alternative therapy. You choose the enrichment therapy that fits your child’s needs. Of course, the government also assigns you a social worker who will advise and help you navigate the system. Families with a child or young adult with special needs are even entitled to discounts on electricity etc. And in designated school districts, busing is provided as well. It’s not a perfect system and there will always be hurdles to deal with but the bottom line is that my child is thriving in school.”

 

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