Thursday, January 16, 2020

To understand and to be understood

Communicating (illustrative)
Lisa Scharf, a seasoned and highly regarded speech therapist who is one of the cornerstones of the Malki Foundation's Zlata Hersch Memorial Therapists on Wheels Program, has been working with Dror ["About Dror"] and other children in Israel's southern periphery communities. The outcomes are impressive and very moving.

This week, she sat down to share with us some aspects of what's entailed. 
“My method is different from many other therapists. Normally professionals treat their patients. But I believe we should work with all the family. It is more complex, but also more realistic and effective.” 
According to Lisa, the home treatment enables the therapist to understand more about the family’s life and relationships, enabling him or her to formulate a session that best fits with their conditions and needs. 

Moreover the process has the effect of empowering parents by helping them find ways to stimulate the child and to continue the therapeutic benefits between sessions.

Lisa explained that her work is not limited to speech but addresses communication in general. There are cases where the child may not manage to acquire the skill of articulating words but will learn to communicate by means of Assistive and Augmentative Communication (AAC) devices. 

The most important thing, she emphasizes, is to give the child 
“a way to understand and to be understood, to communicate with the people around them and impact their world. The younger we start working with the child and AAC the better results we get, and we see the child being able to interact with the world around. And sometimes it even leads to actual speech.”
Speaking of her work with Dror, Lisa shared some initial impressions:
“On my first visit to Dror’s kindergarten, all the teachers and assistants told me that he didn’t understand anything that was said to him and was incapable of using a computer for communication. I knew they were wrong. I could see that Dror understood and that all he needed was encouragement and the patience to learn how to use the device.” 
After months of speech therapy along with occupational therapy - to improve his finger control and pointing - Dror today uses his computer to communicate his needs, wants and feelings. He is even starting to say a few words.

Treating children with complex needs calls for a special type of professional. Lisa viewed this as her calling from a young age. She maintains a special connection up until today with the children she treated years ago. She makes sure to check in with the families from time to time and to enquire about the child’s progress even years after her involvement frew to a close. 

Therapists like Lisa, and families like Dror’s, inspire us each day to work that little bit harder to help build a better world in which all children will be given the same opportunity as Dror. 

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