Talking to the Person Inside
Horticultural Therapist, ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran
Read an excerpt from the impressions from Miriam Fuks, who worked as a Horticultural Therapist in ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran.
* All names have been changed.
“Today for the first time ever, I considered continuing to work with people with severe IDD next year. It was a great day with a good deal of work satisfaction. I spent a good deal of time with my clients making coronets from branches in honor of Shavuot. I put one on Julia’s head, (I had never before managed to make eye contact with her, she does not speak but walks around moaning and spinning) and led her to the mirror so she could see her reflection. Suddenly she smiled. I had made her happy! And I realized that she was recognizing something from outside of her own world.
Elated, I decided to try harder that day than ever before at reaching out to those I had never managed to reach. One boy, Nadav has always previously stared at me blankly when I asked him to work with me. Yet I saw other workers laughing with him, clearly I was missing out on something. But how did they communicate with him? He does not speak, he is wheelchair bound and as far as I could see, had no muscle control whatsoever. Until now I had pretty much ignored him and concentrated on those who called for attention. Today I asked the caretaker if he had alternative language. “Of course”, she replied, “He can move one of his fingers. When he wants to say ‘yes’, he bends that finger, for ‘no’, he straightens it.” Simple! And from there we were off, I asked if he wanted to plant a flower seed – “bent finger = yes!”. I described to him the beautiful Morning Glory flower and the hopes that one day it might reward him with a vine growing by his window – and was rewarded with a beatific smile. I asked if he wanted to do the mixing of the soil? “Straight finger = no” So that’s why I always got negative vibes from him when I took his fingers and made him plant with me. He didn’t want to touch the soil, I could accept that. I asked if he wanted me to do it for him – bent finger. And so on, at the end of twenty minutes work I asked if he had enjoyed the session, and … to be honest, tears came to my eyes when he answered with a bent finger.”
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