In March, the Jerusalem facility of ALEH (www.ALEH.org), Israel’s network of care for children with severe complex disabilities, inaugurated a state-of-the-art hydrotherapy pool, providing its residents with easy access to the water-based therapies that allow them to build muscle mass, improve mobility and move freely and without pain.
The new hydrotherapy center is the first of its kind in Israel to use an augmentative alternative communication (AAC) system, enhancing the experience for ALEH’s nonverbal residents by allowing them to express their feelings, wishes and emotions to caregivers, support staff, attending therapists and the lifeguard via special communication boards placed strategically around the pool.
“With a fully equipped pool on premises, ALEH residents can now receive all of the benefits of hydrotherapy without the hassle of having to travel elsewhere,” said Shlomit Grayevsky, director of ALEH Jerusalem. “And thanks to the AAC system, every child can communicate their fears and feelings, as well as their preferences for the temperature of the water. This simple but brilliant system is sure to set the standard for all other hydrotherapy pools serving the disability community across the country.”
At ALEH’s new hydrotherapy pool, residents work on the development of their emotional, sensory, motor and media skills. The warm water causes their muscles to relax, creating the optimal environment for listening, cooperating and learning. Because the residents enter the water without their supportive aids, they also experience the therapeutic sensation of moving with maximum freedom.
Over the last several years, ALEH staff and volunteers have been utilizing the ACC system in classrooms and treatment areas, enabling nonverbal residents to accurately express their feelings, desires and experiences by simply pointing at cards that match their moods or requests. During active hours, ALEH personnel wear lanyards that include a full deck of AAC cards to help them communicate with the residents during workshops, meals and outdoor activities. By building the AAC system into the hydrotherapy experience, ALEH has added another layer to its rehabilitative care.
“Hydrotherapy offers children with severe complex disabilities freedom from their everyday constraints and strengthens and enhances their physical abilities, respiratory and pulmonary systems, coordination and sensory awareness. Equally as important is the fact that their pool experiences enhance their quality of life and help them build self-esteem,” added Grayevsky. “Adding the ACC system into the hydrotherapy program not only improves communication in the pool’s relaxed and freeing environment, but also help the residents become more comfortable with using the system outside the pool, improving communication in every other instance. These kinds of innovative practices are what set ALEH apart and help us continue to raise the bar for the care of the Israel’s most vulnerable children.”
ALEH’s new hydrotherapy center in Jerusalem was made possible thanks to the generous support of the ALEH Jerusalem Women’s Committee, Natan Hetz from Israel, the Doris Pacey Charitable Foundation in the United Kingdom, the Irving Moskowitz Foundation in the United States and Israel’s national lottery (Toto) and national social security agency (Bituach Leumi).