Sulam, with its many years of experience, and professional staff will implement the new project, a joint pilot program of the Ministry of Welfare, the Ministry of Health, the Jerusalem Municipality, and the Kupot Cholim. The first stages of the program will be carried out at the Meor Chaim and Emuna nurseries.
The project aspires to give a boost to those children who are lagging behind their peers and to teach the staff how to identify potential problems and provide maximal treatment. A further component of the project is providing support and encouragement to parents of special needs children, and to bring about a change in attitude towards the special needs population.
Young children suffering development delays are sometimes taken out of the normative school settings and are placed in "special" classes. As a result, these children are automatically labeled "problem kid" and find it difficult to shed the stigma and to relate to regular children their age.
The "Back to Front" project will enable children with developmental delays to learn and grow together with other children. The program aims to enable children with motor, language or function difficulties to receive their therapy in the regular nursery setting.
The staff of the "Back to Front" project will include social workers, therapists, para professionals, and nursery teachers. Close cooperation and continuing contact between the various professionals involved assures that each child will progress and find his place in the regular school setting. A yearly individual enrichment program is set up for each child. Each child will receive exactly the therapy treatment needed, including physio therapy, speech and occupational therapies, and sessions with the social worker.
With the right treatment and support system in place, the gaps will narrow and eventually lead to the children being successfully absorbed into regular classrooms. In accordance with SULAM's tradition of making cutting edge treatments and equipment immediately available, the staff will be updated constantly about new ideas, therapies, and approaches.
Until now, there were two main programs for very young special needs children.
The first involved "individual integration" in which children were integrated one by one, or the segregated "Rehabilitative Nurseries" for severely handicapped children. The fact that so many children were falling between the cracks led the Ministries of Health, Welfare, WIZO and the ASHLIM Organization to come up with a solution to this problem. Under the auspices of this new project, whole groups of children will be attending mainstream nurseries while receiving all the treatments deemed necessary.
Research conducted by Dr. Mandler and A. Ben Harush has revealed some interested facts. Children participating in the "Back to Front" program recorded achievements equivalent to and in some cases surpassing those reached by children placed in the other settings. For example, para-professional therapies children received in the "Rehabilitative Nurseries averaged at 12 per month. Under the new pilot, in the regular nurseries children received 11.4 sessions per month.
Between 70% to 78% of the children receiving their therapy in the regular nurseries progressed nicely in gross and fine motor coordination, speech and vocabulary. The children did very well, joining in 90% of the activities in class and playing freely with the other children (83%).
Due to the success of the pilot, it was decided to set aside funding for those children receiving the service, thus including it in the array of services available for the special needs public. It should be noted that the ASHLIM Organization for Children and Risk and Their Families, initiated and funded this very important research.
Aside from the other advantages listed, there is another important benefit. Once the initial system is set up, the monthly cost per child is considerably cheaper. At present, the program is operating in ten nurseries in Jerusalem, serving 106 children.
In two of the nurseries, Meor Chaim and Emunah, the project was organized and is being maintained by Sulam's professional staff.