Children as young as six months who suffer from cerebral palsy, spinal muscular dystrophy and other congenital or acquired conditions are able to maneuver themselves about on motorized wheelchairs and carts, thanks to occupational and physical therapists at Jerusalem’s Alyn Hospital.

The amazing mobility of young, physically disabled children and their resultant ability to see and participate in the world instead of staring at the ceiling was demonstrated on Tuesday at professional workshops at the hospital.

The pediatric and adolescent rehabilitation center, headed by Dr. Maurit Be’eri organized its first Conference for Pediatric Rehabilitation which began Tuesday at the hospital and will continue on Wednesday at the capital’s Crown Plaza Hotel. A total of 500 people are expected to attend.

Alyn deputy director-general Naomi Geffen, who has 17 years of experience as an occupational therapist, is an expert at suiting disabled children to devices that increase their independence, stimulation, empowerment and cognitive, motor and sensory development.

Geffen and fellow Alyn occupational therapist Vardit Kindler demonstrated joy sticks, switches, proximity devices that a child doesn’t even have to touch and others that can be activated by touching with the head or chin, sticking a finger in a cup or even licking.

As brain development is so rapid even before a child’s first birthday, getting them mobile is critical, they said.

Alyn has over a dozen motorized vehicles of different types and sizes that it purchased with money from the National Insurance Institute and lends out to families so the children practice with them in a natural setting at home. Then, when the Health Ministry agrees to consider allocating money to help them purchase their own motorized wheelchair or cart, the families and therapists are able to show what the children can do.

Although the ministry formerly allocated funds only to children aged six years and over, they have now halved that to three years of age. The Alyn professionals said, however, that many children are ready and able to benefit at even younger ages.

There are currently 10 severely disabled children waiting in the ministry queue for allocations, they said.

A Health Page feature on the two-day conference will appear on Sunday, September 23.


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