Liad is a happy, social, 19-year old, who loves dogs and craves independence. He lives in Modiin with his parents, an older sister, and his twin sister, Lihi.
Liad and Lihi were born extremely prematurely, at only 26 weeks of gestation, and Liad experienced several complications associated with prematurity, including hemorrhaging in the brain and excess swelling around the brain membranes.
Liad’s vision, fine and gross motor skills were all impacted, and his cognitive development significantly delayed. By the age of three, Liad had undergone two life-saving surgeries, and spent a year in a rehabilitative hospital.
As Liad celebrated his third birthday, his parents sought a program that would provide him with love and warmth, as well as the range of therapies that he required. They discovered Keren Or.
Although initially skeptical that Liad would ever achieve the seemingly lofty goals set out by the staff, his parents were hopeful and agreed to be full partners in the process. Progress was sometimes painstakingly slow, but inspired by Liad’s joy and determination, the indefatigable staff and his parents refused to give up. Slowly, their perseverance bore fruit, as Liad’s vision and hand coordination began to improve.
Today, after 16 years of hard work, Liad is able to use cutting edge eye-gaze technology to communicate his needs and desires. Using his personalized computer screen, he participates actively in classroom discussions, sells snacks at the Keren Or kiosk, and makes choices about his life.
What Liad enjoys most of all, is his newfound ability to operate his motorized wheelchair independently. Just 8 months ago, after thousands of hours of therapy, and hundreds of hours of practice at Keren Or, Liad began to activate the joystick on his wheelchair. Because he can see where he is going, can avoid obstacles in his path, and can use his hand to direct the joystick, Liad is able to move around on his own, and has achieved a new level of independence.
Today, Liad is able to choose where he wants to go, and is an active part of family outings. He loves going to the supermarket with his father, cruising the aisles and choosing what products to buy. He especially enjoys going out with his twin sister when she is home from the army, and expresses unbounded joy when he is with his friends and family.
Liad’s mother describes Keren Or as Liad’s “home away from home” and “second family.” “Without Keren Or, I don’t know what we would have done.”
Nechami is a cheerful, highly motivated, 10-year old who loves to succeed, and invests a lot of effort in achieving her goals. She loves to interact with those around her with smiles and sounds.
Nechami has been a student at Keren Or for six years. Nechami has cortical visual impairment (CVI), and many other cognitive and physical challenges. Nechami uses a specially adapted wheelchair, and receives a range of personally tailored therapies at Keren Or.
Until one year ago, Nechami expressed herself primarily through sounds, gestures indicating yes and no, and reaching towards things she wanted. Every action took a very long time because it was so difficult for her to plan and execute the appropriate movement.
Nechami’s parents and the Keren Or team believed that she was capable of more. It was clear that Nechami understood everything that was happening around her, and that it was our responsibility to give her a way to communicate with the world, beyond a simple “yes” or “no.”
Choosing the optimal form of communication for Nechami was complicated. Due to her visual impairment, we couldn’t use a visually-based method of communication. Dalia Yellin, Keren Or’s internationally renowned vision specialist, suggested that Nechami’s vision could be improved through our cutting edge vision therapy. Since cortical visual impairment is caused by a cognitive impairment rather than a problem with the eye itself, we could retrain the brain to decode visual input and images in different ways. Gradually, this could help Nechami achieve better overall communication.
We began with deciphering 3-D, tactile symbols through touch, then through sight, and then with images of the symbols, until finally we reached the ultimate stage of deciphering regular images. A multi-disciplinary team was engaged. The vision therapist worked on Nechami’s unfocused gaze. The communication therapist adapted the symbols and reinforced Nechami’s ability to choose. The occupational therapist created a comfortable work space. The physical therapist found a solution to help Nechami hold up her head, and the classroom teacher and assisting staff identified areas of interest that would stimulate Nechami, and practiced the skills with her daily. Finally, one year ago, the entire team felt that Nechami was ready to use an alternative, visual method of communication.
Nechami was introduced to eye-gaze technology which enables her to choose an image from a computer screen using her eye movement. The image that Nechami selects triggers a computer-generated voice that expresses what she is thinking or feeling.
Nechami’s progress has been incredible. In just 6 months, she went from focusing on a single image on the screen, to choosing between 9 images. Today, she is working on putting short sentences together. Nechami asks the staff for things, initiates communication with her friends, makes choices, and shares her inner world with us.
Following Nechami’s incredible success in school, her parents decided to introduce the digital system at home. For the first time in her life, Nechami has become an active part of her family’s life. She communicates with her parents and siblings, tells them about her day at school, shares her feelings, and says that she loves it when they are all noisy at home!
Nechami’s older sister recently celebrated her Bat Mitzvah. We adapted her program, and using her eye-gaze technology, Nechami offered her sister a message of congratulations at the event. Nechami was thrilled to take an active role in the celebration, and her parents felt that they were celebrating more than one milestone that night.
Meet Natan Eliyah
Natan is almost ten years old and has cortical visual impairment (CVI), a visual impairment that affects the brain’s ability to understand and interpret the information the eyes send to the brain. Natan's joyful spirit and infectious smile naturally engage every person who comes into contact with him.
Natan mostly moves around in his wheelchair, but he also loves using the Hart Walker, a special walking device which helps him walk down the hall independently. With intense hydrotherapy and physical therapy, Natan has begun taking a few steps. He loves his sessions in the pool, and the sense of freedom that they afford him.
Music is Natan's passion, and he lights up when he hears the strong sounds of percussion and cymbals! He enjoys music therapy and loves going outdoors to the musical patio with the volunteers. In the classroom, Natan enjoys playing specially adapted interactive games with his classmates. And, with the dedicated intervention of our expert team, Natan is gradually learning to maximize the minimal vision that he has. He is learning to recognize people and communicate his needs and preferences.
Natan makes the most of every opportunity, turning therapy and learning time into fun experiences. The most important outcome of all his new skills is a new level of independence, which brings Natan incredible joy.