Equipped with communications boards, hydrotherapy pool enables children with complex disabilities to relieve pain, move freely and express themselves
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 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, and the Irving Moskowitz Foundation in the United States, and Israel’s national lottery (Toto) and national social security agency (Bituach Leumi).
ALEH (www.ALEH.org) is Israel’s network of care for children with severe complex disabilities and an international advocate for disability inclusion and equity. In addition to providing over 750 of Israel’s most vulnerable children with the highest-level medical and rehabilitative care in four residential facilities across the country, ALEH leads the charge for acceptance and inclusion, changing societal attitudes towards individuals with disabilities through experiential education programming, youth leadership and community engagement.
For more than 35 years, ALEH has operated as a global community based on the principles of sensitivity, commitment and kindness, helping children with severe complex disabilities realize their greatest potentials, making a difference in the lives of Israel’s disability community, and building a better, more caring world.
Edited by: JV Staff
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