“Bye, Mommy,” little Malky calls to her mother as the bus pulls up to her corner. And those are her last words till 2:00 when she returns home each afternoon. Malky is a selective mute. She is bright, does well in all of her schoolwork that does not involve speech but is unable to communicate with the teacher or classmates in the school setting.
Ezer Mizion’s Advocacy Unit operates a hotline for questions from parents, teachers, and therapists, organizes workshops, day seminars and informational evenings, and offers special professional lectures to principals. The growing number of calls coming in on the subject of selective mutism led the Advocacy Unit leadership to the awareness that this topic has not yet received the publicity it deserves, and so, the decision was made to hold a workshop. A small-sized venue was rented and notices were sent out. But even those that had seen the need were shocked at the response. The small venue was cancelled and the event was moved to a large municipal auditorium.
Hundreds of people – parents, school principals, teachers, preschool teachers, and emotional therapists – acquired knowledge and tools for dealing with the issue of selective mutism at the workshop that was the joint initiative of Bnei Brak Municipality’s “Project 360 Degrees” and Ezer Mizion’s Advocacy Unit.
The pervading theme conveyed at the professional workshop: There is hope! People suffering from this condition can be assisted to get on a different track. Mrs. Feigie Reinitz, a social worker specializing in selective mutism, shared with the audience stories of amazing progress seen in children who were silent for years and, with Hashem’s help, after receiving treatment tailored especially for them, arrived at wonderful results. The workshop was led by psychologist Ruth Frednick, who has been using a unique method to treat children with selective mutism for more than twenty years.
The workshop, which included video clips and Powerpoint presentations, gave a clear, professional view of the condition, clearly delineating the role of the therapists, the teachers and the educational staff in helping the child and shattered common myths on the topic. The facts spoke for themselves and injected great hope in the participants as to their ability to help the children suffering from this condition and get them on the right track. Mrs. Frednick emphasized in her talk that this is a sensitive topic that must be under the exclusive care of experts with proven experience in the field.
Rabbi Chananya Chollak, Ezer Mizion International Chairman, described the work of the Advocacy Unit, which provides a professional response in a broad range of areas, offering information and guidance at no cost on topics relating to children and teens with challenges, including subjects such as attention deficits, emotional problems, developmental challenges, and children with special needs.
The Unit maintains close contact with service providers working with the authorities and in the community and connects them with the people calling for information or assistance. Information and innovations in the field are constantly changing and the Unit staff presents callers with the latest suitable options for evaluation, therapy services and appropriate schools.
At the conclusion of the evening, hundreds of participants thanked Ezer Mizion for organizing the evening, which will help many children break out of their cycle of oppressive silence.
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.