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Jerusalem Center for Blind Children with Multiple Disabilities

A Sense of Family

Not everyone is fortunate enough to compare their work environment to a family setting, but that’s exactly how Michal Shussman feels about Keren Or.

Michal came to Keren Or as an occupational therapy student intern 12 years ago and has been an integral part of the Keren Or team ever since. Michal remembers the power of her first visit to the school. “A group of kids was sitting together with their instructors and singing, accompanied by the guitar and the piano. It was part of their evening ritual and I was astonished by the warm feeling of family,” she says. “Keren Or is not like other special education schools. I think we reach the child in a much more holistic way and try to address his or her needs and those of the family.”

Michal specializes in working one-on-one with students to address feeding disorders and build eating skills.  Michal considers the student’s family when she develops treatment plans and thinks about how to help "the whole unit". For instance, “if the mother has to make special food all the time, it is time consuming. If, on the other hand, the child can begin to eat more typical food, they can all sit together for Shabbat dinner and eat the same thing.”

“This challenge is not so obvious to everyone,” she continues.  "Yet developing proper eating skills can change the way a family functions with a special needs child."

One Keren Or family wanted to take their child on vacation but worried that his inability to drink from a cup would make travelling difficult.  Michal worked with the student on his drinking skills, and ultimately, they were able to take the kind of vacation as a family that they had imagined.

Michal points out an added benefit to the sense of family at Keren Or that transcends the many differences between staff members. “Being there breaks down barriers, giving me the experience of knowing people from different backgrounds and cultures. I learned that we can get beyond our differences and that we are, in essence, the same.”