Sara* was not adjusting. As a special child, her parents had dealt with numerous issues but Orientation Day  marked what they hoped would be a new beginning. “Ezer Mizion’s Day Care has experience with children like her. Their staff is professional. For sure, they’ll have the key to help her.” With the tremendous burden of #raising a special child now shared, they felt a weight being lifted off their own frail shoulders.

But it didn’t happen. Sara displayed extreme social anxiety and various other challenges. Her teachers tried but she was not moving forward. Each day Mommy found it harder and harder to send her off to school with a hopeful smile. It was so difficult to face but face it they must. Their precious child was not succeeding. To others she may appear to be a special needs child, doomed to failure. But to her parents, she was everything. A mighty wave of love for this child would overpower them but the daily reports threatened to topple their last hopes.

Then it came. The dreaded phone call.  The school was requesting a meeting. The parents were certain of what they would be hearing.  Probably a cold, professional assessment in clipped tones, “We’re sorry. Your daughter is not adjusting. We suggest that you look for another school…”

Meeting at Principal’s Office to decide our child’s future

They arrived precisely on time for their appointment, trembling in the principal’s office as if they themselves were school children waiting for the principal to issue her dire ruling. But they were wrong. Oh, how wrong they were!

Several professionals were there at the meeting.  Each one was warm and caring and, best of all, hopeful. “Sara is a lovely little girl with many strengths. We’re going to work hard to tap into those strengths.  But first we have to get her to adjust to a school setting. We’ve discussed many ideas and have come up with one that we think may work. Since the current situation is not succeeding, we’re going to start all over again with a new adjustment period. Sara will be given her own small room with only an assistant in the room with her. As she gradually adjusts to the assistant’s presence, we will move her up, step by step, to a standard school setting.”

Success. After a few days with only the assistant, Sara was brought into the Gan for a short period. She began to cry but her tears soon stopped when she caught sight of an interesting toy. Day by day, she was able to remain in Gan for longer periods.

In the course of the year, she received paramedical therapy, with an emphasis on the communication aspect and the DIR method. Slowly but surely, Sara began making eye contact with the staff and even showing affection during the therapy sessions. In addition, she learned to play functionally with educational games and began producing her first words.

Playing, learning and growing at Ezer Mizion’s Judith Pfeuffer Day Care Network

By the end of the year, substantial progress was seen in Sara’s functioning. She came to Gan happily, put words together, expressed requests and feelings, and began forging social connections with the other children. Sara remained in the day nursery for another year, during which she was placed with the higher-functioning group of children. She was successfully toilet-trained and began eating a wide range of foods, after a long period of pickiness, when she’d eat only plain bread, Bamba, Similac, and one specific kind of flavored yogurt.

Sara completed her second year able to utter sentences and to carry on basic conversation. She had become friends with the other children in Gan. She also showed substantial and significant improvement in her motor and communication skills. Sara went on to another year of a municipal “Gan Safah” — preschool with therapy support— and we were recently informed that for the coming year, she will be mainstreamed into a regular preschool.

Sara is one of the many success stories of Ezer Mizion’s Judith Pfeuffer Day Care Network, whose goals are the same as those of the students’ parents: to love each child and help them grow and to never, ever give up.

Ezer Mizion provides services to over 660,000 of Israel’s population annually in addition to its Bone Marrow Registry which saves the lives of Jewish cancer patients the world over.