Rivlin sees Beit Issie Shapiro transform lives of special needs children

Rivlin has paid special attention to people with special needs, as well as to those who have overcome disabilities.

President Reuven Rivlin (photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin
(photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
The president, prime minister, MKs and certain others are exempt from the prohibition of going more than 1,000 meters from home during the lockdown. Even without that, President Reuven Rivlin already has had his second COVID vaccine shot, which permits recipients to move around with greater freedom.
Rivlin’s long-distance trip from Jerusalem on Tuesday led him to Beit Issie Shapiro (BIS) in Ra’anana, widely recognized as one of the world’s foremost NGOs in changing the lives of people with disabilities, discovering their potential, enabling them to reach it and sometimes to even go beyond what was assessed as their potential.
In recent weeks, Rivlin has paid special attention to people with special needs, as well as to those who have overcome disabilities.
In December, he visited the Aleh Negev rehabilitation village for children and adults with disabilities. The following week, he hosted young men and women with special needs who are volunteers in the IDF.
In the chaos that has characterized Israel’s education system during the coronavirus crisis, children with special needs have suffered more than those who are part of the regular education network. Any long-term cessation in their therapy causes regression.
BIS refused to allow that to happen to the youngsters in its care and continued to function as usual.
Recognized as an international rehabilitation center, offering treatment to children from all over the world, Beit Issie Shapiro collaborates with similar facilities abroad and is a special consultant to the United Nations.
It develops innovative therapies and state-of-the-art services for adults as well as children and deals with a broad range of disabilities, providing physical, occupational, emotional, speech and language therapies, among others. It has been instrumental in changing attitudes toward people with disabilities, promoting inclusion and lobbying for better legislation so that they can receive the rights to which they are entitled without having to fight for them.
RIVLIN WAS escorted on his visit by BIS CEO Amir Lerner and BIS founder and Israel Prize laureate Naomi Stuchiner. She named the facility after her late father who migrated from South Africa in 1977 and strongly believed in equal opportunities for all people regardless of physical or mental disabilities. He wanted to build a community that would assist people with special needs, and that is what his daughter has dedicated her life to doing.
Rivlin met with therapists, teachers and students and saw firsthand how ongoing educational activities are organized. He was particularly moved by his encounter with therapist Ongi Kaplan-Gal, who was working with one-year-old Eitan, who has cerebral palsy.
No child is too young to be admitted to BIS. Kaplan-Gil, who was administering the therapy in a special sensory stimulation room, told Rivlin this was the room where therapy could be adapted to Eitan’s sensory and developmental needs.
From there, Rivlin went to a math class and participated in the lesson with students, where he enjoyed solving problems with them. He then went out to the yard where children were having a gym lesson and spoke to a parent of one of the children.
BIS involves parents as much as possible in the therapies that their children are receiving to ensure that they fully understand what is being done for the child and why. There are some therapies that parents can administer at home, which is also an important part of the treatment.
At the conclusion of his visit, Rivlin characterized BIS as “an anchor in the storm.” He praised the organization’s professionalism and sense of mission in the belief of the potential in every child.
Because of dedicated organizations like BIS, the issue of disability has received greater prominence on the public agenda, Rivlin said.
The pandemic had emphasized the need to work professionally with both children and adults and to use innovative techniques to empower people with disabilities, Lerner told Rivlin. The coronavirus restrictions have created new needs to which BIS has been able to respond, he said.