Integration & Acceptance – Changing Social Norms & Perceptions at ALEH Negev
Nov 9, 2009
“Nagi is sooo cute.”
“Does he wear a helmet all the time?”
“Can he come visit us tomorrow in our classroom?”
These comments, made by the children in ALEH Negev’s flagship Regular Preschool Program, warmed the hearts of all those involved in this new venture and pointed to its success.
With the beginning of the school year this September, two new preschool classes opened in ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran. The classes are for regular children from the neighboring town of Merhavim, who are delighted to benefit from the village’s expansive grounds and well-equipped classrooms.
At the same time, they will be growing up side by side with the village residents, learning to accept special-needs people as part of a healthy society which accommodates and treats both the strong and the vulnerable with dignity and according to each one’s needs.
During the day, as the children play in the village’s playgrounds and use the various therapy rooms, they are naturally exposed to the residents. They will also connect with them by preparing for them greeting and birthday cards, having a special child join them during mealtime, and interacting during special events and shows.
Last week, as the 3-year old preschool class took a walk in the area of the Hospital Wing, they met Nagi, an adorable child their age who wears a helmet on his head for protection and is attached to a breathing machine. He was accompanied by an occupational therapist and special education teacher who were working with him. The preschool children joined them, and together with their teacher, they all observed the ants walking on the sidewalk.
The sight of children interacting so naturally with this very disabled boy was extremely moving and heartwarming to us all.
This program, under the auspices of the Merhavim Regional Council, is a breakthrough in the principle of “inverse-inclusion,” wherein the outside community joins the special-needs society within the unique surroundings they require. This group of children will continue to go to school on ALEH Negev grounds during the coming years, during which we will follow their interaction and responses to growing up in a natural setting with special-needs children their age.
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