Liron, 28, diagnosed with mild developmental disability, was accepted to Shikmim House in 2008. Throughout her time there she demonstrated a high degree of independent functioning in her daily and vocational life. The members of the staff that have been with her for years happily observed her progress and frequently updated her personal advancement plan. As Liron’s self-confidence increased, her functioning improved even further.
The Shikmim House staff suggested integrating Liron into the “Uniformingly Equal”/"Equal in Uniform” program, a collaboration between the IDF and Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services that finds a suitable venue in the armed services for individuals with mental disabilities. Individuals in this program are considered regular soldiers. Their recruitment is anchored in the concept that IDF service is a formative experience for every recruit, all the more so for individuals with mental disabilities, and the satisfaction of knowing that they are contributing intensifies that experience.
The program participants serve in meaningful and productive positions that benefit the IDF, and are appropriately adapted to the recruits’ capabilities, given their limitations.
From Shikmim’s standpoint, the programs’ main goal is to strengthen the recruits’ self-confidence and their sense of self-worth as they come to realize that they can be an integral part of Israeli society. The interaction between the person with a mental disability and the rest of the IDF recruits – soldiers and commanders – is invaluable.
Liron successfully integrated into the program. Notable is the 2011 Independence Day ceremony, where Liron received a certificate of excellence for her successful integration into the IDF. Liron completed her military service and should be able to find work on the open market.
The Shikmim House is a home in every aspect. Its residents receive warm and caring attention from the staff. The staff believes that “every resident has the right to live a normal life in his or her natural surroundings, to realize his or her inherent potential, and to integrate into the social, cultural, and vocational fabric in accordance to his or her ability, wishes, and needs. “
My Story - Liron, 28
In 2003 I received a telephone call from the director of an institution for children and adults with behavioral disorders and mild retardation. The director told me that he heard that there is a vacancy at Shikmim House and he would like for us to meet Yaniv - one of the adolescents in his care - and to consider accepting him as a resident in our facility.
The director believed that in a different educational framework Yaniv would have a chance for behavioral and functional rehabilitation. Accompanied by our social worker, we visited Yaniv at the Developmental Disabilities Institute. We met a frightened, agitated adolescent, who had speech difficulties. It was obvious to us that he was expressing his distress. Till this day I have no viable explanation as to why he captured my heart. I decided to accept him into Shikmim House and give him a chance, despite the social worker’s reservations and the fact that we were not following the normal acceptance procedures. The information regarding his level of functioning was basic at best, and I felt that it was urgent to remove him from where he was living at the time.
Yaniv’s first year in Shikmim House was difficult. He hoarded food in his room, hid his belongings, had frequent outbursts, responded with violence, and, primarily, he lacked boundaries.
We developed a personal advancement program for him, incorporating all the staff, and were very pleased and reassured by his improvement and his desire to cooperate, and succeed. We offered him a lot of love, and tried to restore his trust in himself and in his new surroundings. It was clear to us that the principal cause of his aberrant behavior was a reaction to the locked framework in which he had been living. We were eventually able to alleviate his anxiety, defensiveness, and distrust, and with time, a different Yaniv emerged – a Yaniv who knows how to enjoy himself, interact with friends, and believes in himself and his surroundings. Today, at 31, Yaniv works in well-known supermarket chain, succeeds at his job and is loved by his employers. He functions independently, is held in high regard by his peers and staff, and has a girlfriend. We all feel immense satisfaction at his success and are proud of the process we have gone through together.
Dov Spielman, Director