Early childhood is the most important phase for overall development and what a child experiences and learns during their first few years lasts a lifetime. For visually impaired/blind and special needs children early intervention and rehabilitation is essential to producing a healthy, well adjusted child.
At ELIYA we take a holistic approach, helping visually impaired/blind children and their families cope with the child’s visual impairment. We customize programs for each child to help him or her meet specific goals in order to reach their full potential and become contributing members of society.
For the past 15 years introductory programs for blind and visually impaired infants ages 3 -12 months and parents have proven to be very effective. ELIYA’s core program, which operates six days a week for ages 1 year and up, addresses all aspects of a child’s development. Initially, children are assessed on their level of visual function, mobility, and communication skills. Parents are given support, guidance and counseling so they can understand the world of visual impairment and how to best help their child reach his/her maximum potential.
Below is a small sample of 30 different core and supplemental programs and activities offered at ELIYA.
Dark Room Therapy
ELIYA is a recognized leader in the innovation of new systems and technologies that are being utilized worldwide. Each ELIYA facility is equipped with at least two state-of-the-art dark rooms and equipment. Dark rooms help impaired children with visual functions, while other innovative technology assists children with multi-disabilities. The darkroom is an effective therapy for maximizing a child’s remaining vision. If this is not done in time, the child could be in danger of totally losing his/her sight.
Preparing for Braille
Braille reading is taught in the First Grade. Much preliminary work is required to prepare the children before they are ready to learn to read Braille. At ELIYA, the preliminary work to acquire the necessary skills begins at a very early age.
ELIYA staff work on developing various skills in order to raise a child’s phonological awareness and story sequence. In addition, games are played that develop required skills, such as: working with hands, developing sensitive touch, page orientation, touch and feel books, etc. By the first Grade, ELIYA children know how to read their names and, based on their ability and readiness, additional basic words in Braille.
Hydrotherapy - Hydrotherapy treatment is a rehabilitating water therapy. This therapy uses the water’s characteristics such as floatation, resistance, hydrostatic pressure, stream and heat convection that can be appropriate for special needs children. Eye-sight is the most important sense in the sensory-motor development of babies and hydrotherapy assists the visually challenged child with spatial awareness in a relaxing, warm and secure environment.
Children who are visually impaired often experience motor/cognitive problems. In order for a baby to develop normally, from a motor aspect as well as the movement aspect, he needs to notice the presence of an object or person in front of him, creating the motivation to act – to reach out, make a noise, advance towards the object and more. Noticing the presence of an object or person is achieved mainly by using eye-sight, since the noise itself is not enough to create an inner image of external objects.
Animal Assisted Therapy - Contact with animals enables easy and intuitive communication of emotion via body language, voice and physical contact. Nonverbal communication contributes immensely to the development of sensitivity to others and the understanding of their needs.
When a child connects with an animal it enables him or her to express a variety of emotions. The ability of the child to give him or herself – and also enjoy unconditional love that the animal returns– contributes to development, builds self confidence, improves sensitivity, and to recognize and absorb emotional signs (love, anger, trust and more). Connection with the animal can create a general pattern that will be copied to the child’s connection with other children and people in general.
Challenges/adventure program– Blind and visually impaired children have a tendency to fear any experimentation and as a result are resultant to move from one secure place. The goals of the adventure activities are to help our children overcome this fear by challenging their motor abilities and sense of balance, thus helping them develop their self-esteem and social skills such as mutual help and interdependence.
Individual/Group Music Therapy
Music is an art that enables expression, connection and communication. Music therapy is a methodical process of intervention, based on the use of musical experiences in the framework of the relationship that develops
Within the framework of working with children who are visually impaired in different levels, there are children that suffer from delayed development; the developmental aspect of music therapy is even more valid since these children do not experience enough development of mutual contact skills:
- Initial interactions that develop at the beginning of the baby’s life and that are based on eye contact between the child and the adult.
- Spontaneous vocal dialogue that is first initiated by the adult and afterwards by the child himself.
- Imitation and mirroring of the child’s spontaneous behavior.
The mutual relationship in communication between two individuals is the base for normal communicational and emotional development.
Using music as therapy is done in a large variety of ways, including singing, playing, listening, while incorporating movement and acting. The ways of use are decided according to the emotional development level among children and vary from patient to patient.
Music therapy is conducted in groups. The children arrive at therapy with the therapist that accompanies them on a daily basis, and the therapy takes place one at a time. In groups that most of the can act more independently, the therapy is conducted while creating interaction between the children.
The therapy process that includes identifying the developmental stage and taking into account the existing abilities and creating an appropriate therapeutic environment to the needs of the child, while including implementation of therapeutic principles in the framework of the kindergarten, enables a fruitful base for integrative work and developmental progress.
The child’s natural language is play and arts & crafts, his images language and his imaginary world are reach and active. At the stage when the child is having difficulties
to verbally express his feelings; the “products” speak on his behalf. The creation of materials promotes the emotional process. The child experiences and proces ses in his own way his experiences and the emotions linked to these experiences, and that is the essence of the therapeutic process.
Method of activity: There are 2 groups of 10 children each. The work is on an individual basis, and takes place once a week and is fitted to the individual program of each of the children.
Animal Assisted Therapy
Contact with animals enables easy and intuitive communication that relies on emotions, body language, voice and physical contact – communication that does not need the mediation of words and contributes immensely to the development of sensitivity to the other and the understanding of his needs.
The contact of a child with an animal enables his to express a variety of emotions. The ability of the child to give himself – and also enjoy unconditional love that the animal gives back – contributes to his development, builds his self confidence and improves his sensitivity to be able to absorb emotional signs (love, anger, trust and more). The connection with the animal can create a general pattern that will be copied to the child’s connection with other children and people in general.
Due to their disability, blind / visually impaired children tent to have a tendency to fear experimentation and stay in one place.
The goals of adventure activities is to help our children overcome this fear by challenging their motor abilities and sense of balance, thus helping them develop their self esteem and social skills such as mutual help/interdependence.
Learn more about our programs at eliya.org.il