Posts Tagged ‘communication’

Momentous Conference on AAC (Alternative and Augmentative Communication)

May 24, 2017

pr voca AAC conf 4 17 fEzer Mizion, a leader in the field of Alternative and Augmentative Communication, recently hosted a major conference whose purpose was to bring the latest innovations to both professionals and family members. The plight of those who were never given or who have lost their ability to speak has long been on Ezer Mizion radar.

One cannot imagine the anguish of an intelligent, hitherto productive adult with opinions of many subjects who is forced to remain silent as discussions take place around him. His dignity is further reduced when obliged to accept as his daily needs what others provide for him, unable to make his basic wants known.

For a child, the situation is even worse as speech is a vital element in his development. His IQ is hampered in its maturation due to lack of communication with those around him.

pr voca AAC conf 4-17
Presenting the Latest on Communication Devices and Methods

Ezer Mizion AAC professionals have done much research and have been on the cutting edge of each new advancement. The conference was purported to share this knowledge with conference participants  which included speech and language practitioners, OT’s, others in the field of language and communication from schools, speech clinics and medical centers all over Israel  in addition to key leadership from Bituach Leumi (Israel’s Health Insurance). World class clinicians and technical developers  in the field of augmentative communication sat alongside end-users and their families each gleaning new concepts that will give a voice to those who cannot speak.

Watch Martin ‘speak’ at the event


MK Litzman, Israel’s Minister of Health, addressed the conference expressing the Israel government’s satisfaction in being part of Ezer Mizion’s endeavor to make communication accessible to all members of the population.

pr voca AAC conference 4-17
Excellent Communication without Normative Speech

Conference keynote speaker was Dr. Melanie Fried-Oken, who is a certified speech-language pathologist, a professor of neurology, pediatrics, biomedical engineering and otolaryngology (ENT) and an adjunct professor in the Communication Disorders and Sciences Department at Portland State University.

Dr. Oken’s clinical area of focus is augmentative and alternative communication. She has been serving adults with communication disorders since 1979. When not in clinic, Dr. Fried-Oken leads an active federally-funded research team that explores technology, new interventions, and patient-centered outcomes for individuals with significant communication impairments and their families.

Dr. Oken inspired everyone with her groundbreaking research and innovations in the field of AAC, working closely with hi-tech developers on AAC solutions for people with communication impairments.

The conference achieved its goal of raising awareness among AAC professionals regarding innovations in the field and options available for high tech AAC solutions and how to access them. Many of the professionals are committing to the series of lectures that Ezer Mizion will be giving in coming months on AAC related topics which will further enrich the professional world and ultimately people for whom speech and communication is a constant challenge.

Enable access to hi-tech communication devices to more of the speech impaired!



Gates of Prision Unlocked

June 18, 2014

Communication is taken for granted by the average person. He can enter a store and ask for a coke. He can say ‘excuse me’ and be allowed to pass. He can express his anger when treated unfairly. For some, though, it is not so simple. A stroke patient, an accident victim, a child born with a genetic disorder may be cut off from human communication due to his inability to speak.
Technological advances have enabled innovative devices to be used to provide the patient with the ability to communicate. He may use his finger to point on a communication board. He may touch a selected square on a touch screen or he may type on a keyboard to make his needs, his thoughts and opinions known to others.
In1997, with financial assistance from Israel’s National Insurance Institute, Ezer Mizion opened a loan center to lend out highly specialized Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) equipment.
But what if his cognitive abilities are on par with his peers and he has many thoughts inside his head that he would like to share with others. He may have strong opinions on what is currently being discussed. Yet the standard communication devices cannot be used. He cannot point on a communication board or type on a keyboard because he is not able to extend his arm or maneuver his fingers to do so. Should he remain, his thoughts imprisoned, locked away from the outside world, unable to even express a simple need for a drink of water?
In response to their needs, Ezer Mizion is expanding its services to include a Motor Accessibility Unit.
With additional funding from the National Insurance Institute, systems and accessories to make alternative communication devices more accessible to those that are not only speech impaired but also mobility challenged were purchased at a cost of over $250,000. These accessories enable people with significant motor impairments to communicate using special accessibility solutions. The solutions significantly improve quality of life and provide these people with greater independence and active participation in daily life.
In recent years, there has been notable progress at many levels in the use of AAC equipment and speech generating devices in Israel.
The most dramatic development is in the area of controlling the computer by eye tracking (eye gaze systems). The system of gaze control is an independent system that enables a person to have full control over the computer by moving his pupils.
In ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), which is characterized by the patient’s progressive deterioration, the ability to use a computer regresses as the disease intensifies. Therefore, it is necessary to find the means of accessibility that is appropriate for each stage, so that the patient can continue using the computer and maintain his communication with those around him.
In addition, other accessories may be called for, such as: dynamic support for the forearms, a smaller keyboard, use of an IPad, and use of a mouse operated by head movements, etc.
With the expansion of the inventory, it is now possible for a patient to borrow this highly specialized equipment and exchange them for others as needed throughout the stages of various illnesses and conditions.
Ezer Mizion occupational therapists perform patient evaluations for computer accessibility in the patient’s home. With disease progression, options are given for a renewed evaluation by Ezer Mizion’s occupational therapist, and based on the new recommendations, to exchange the accessibility accessories, so as to match physical function at any given time.
Obtaining an eye-tracking system is conditional on an evaluation of suitability by professionals approved by the heads of Ezer Mizion’s Accessibility Unit. Devices are loaned for a limited period of 3 months, because of the waiting list for these devices.
Loans are all made free of charge following submission of a security check as collateral and a monthly credit card charge to cover insurance for the duration of the device loan period.
Ezer Mizion’s Communication Aids Lending Center is open: Sun., Tues., and Thurs. from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Mon. from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tues. from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. by appointment only.
by Debbie Ben-Tal, OT,
Director, Accessibility Unit
Ezer Mizion Communication Aids Lending Center
For further info:

Talk Is Not Cheap

April 25, 2012

“I dreaded the moment when we would have to return the computer… It just was not an option!”

Seven-year-old Shai Chayat suffers from a rare syndrome known as Marshal Smith, which prevents her from communicating through normal speech. Over the last year, Shai began to “speak” through a special augmentative communication computer that enables her to form sentences, express herself and make contact with those around her.

Shai’s parents, Irit and Danny, borrowed the device that costs close to $5,500 from Ezer Mizion’s unique VOCA (Voice Output Communication Aids) Lending Center. VOCA is one of the many divisions of Ezer Mizion, one of Israel’s major organizations assisting the ill, the handicapped, the elderly in Israel.

When the end of the loan period approached, the Chayats knew they would have to return the device, for the benefit of many others awaiting their turn. Some families, at this point, pay for, or raise, the funds to purchase their own equipment, having determined by using the loaned item that this particular model will work for them. The Chayats were unable to do either.

“The tremendous change the computer made in Shai’s life is unbelievable… We could not accept the thought that Shai would have to manage without the computer. It just wasn’t an option.” But only a limited number of this particular device was available at Ezer Mizion and…time was up.

The devastation of Ezer Mizion staff nearly matched that of Shai’s parents. “If only more equipment were available, other options would exist but, as it stands…” the staff member could hardly bring herself to say the next words.  

Shai’s story had a happy ending: The school she attends sent an article about her plight to an American philanthropist. He was so touched by the thought that without the computer, Shai would not be able to say, “I want Grandma,” that he decided to cover the entire expense of a personal computer for her use.

But what about all the other children – and adults – like Shai?

Young children who cannot develop properly. Teens and adults cut off from the satisfaction of communicating with peers, imprisoned in their loneliness. What about all of these?

Today, the trend in augmentative communication is towards less costly, user-friendly iPad devices, which can be programmed with exciting, auditory feedback programs that open new horizons for the speech-disabled. The programs use instant gratification methods and a combination of audio and visual stimuli to rivet the children’s attention and advance their communication by giant leaps. 

For child or adult, Ezer Mizion’s VOCA equipment is like creating a window in a hitherto dark cave.  He has so much to say. His ideas, his opinions have been chasing themselves inside his mind. Trapped.  With the program, his thoughts have somewhere to go. He can connect. And the first thought many want to express is Thank You. Thank you, all of you, for enabling me to join the world.

Many inborn conditions prevent speech from developing. Stroke, trauma and various medical conditions can destroy the ability to speak in an older child or adult. A major component of autism is the impeded ability to communicate. However, even the autistic can be helped by use of Ezer Mizion’s VOCA devices.  For further info on how the ipad can assist the autistic, view video:

Speech and Communication

February 15, 2010

Ezer Mizion leaves no stone unturned in its attempt to help those in need and has developed close relationships with the leading lights of the professional world.  Donna Lederman, M.A., CCC/SLP, Senior Certified PROMPT® Instructor in the USA was recently invited to Israel by Ezer Mizion to provide training in PROMPT therapy which provides tactile cues to guide movements for speech production in children whose motor speech systems are unstable or poorly coordinated and have not achieved success using traditional forms of speech therapy.

Continuing its search for means of assisting various segments of the population challenged with seemingly insurmountable difficulties, Ezer Mizion invited Ms. Molly Kessler to provide an introduction in SLA therapy for over 300 parents and educators. Ms. Kessler has innovated the SLA therapy method for children with communication challenges.

The method relates to the act of social communication as if it were a language in and of itself. It views those that are challenged in the use their social skills as if they were new immigrants in the “land” of social behavior.

Ms. Kessler cracked the code of “social language” and consequently developed a method for teaching the language, now known as the SLA School, to those unfamiliar with this tongue in the form of a language school, similar to the American ESL (English as a Second Language) programs.

In the ESL program, participants learn the language’s grammar, diction and rules while undergoing the emotional experience of using a new language properly. The pupil acquires the social language as living and dynamic, depending on the circumstances in which it is used.  They are motivated to learn the language as it becomes an effective tool for them in achieving their goals and aspirations.

Most people acquire their social skills naturally, without effort, as they learn their mother tongue.  All who are challenged by social skills: people with learning disabilities, ADHD, difficulties in executive skills – especially regulatory skills, the range of Autism and Asperger’s syndrome, SPD, Hyperlexy, and people socially burdened for emotional reasons, can all learn the social language as a second language, in three stages:

I) Participation in a language school for social skills – a place that enables the participants to formally learn, step by step, the rules and uses of the social language.  Commonly, participants’ close relatives, e.g. parents, spouses, caretakers, etc. participate in this stage.

II) In the second stage, participants practice using the new language in groups comprising of similar-aged learners, supervised by a qualified SLA social language trainer.  The group exercises what they have learned under the guidance of the trainer. Their social skills are sharpened as they acquire new tools and build their self-confidence in the use of the social language they have learned.

III) The third step is less structured but far more influential.  By naturally using the new social language in the “real world”, participants gradually undergo positive emotional experiences and reinforcements.  By successfully using the social skills (language) acquired, the participants achieve their goals and aspirations more easily and effectively.  This satisfaction confirms and justifies the efforts they invested in learning the language, while encouraging further development and the sharpening of those skills.

Hundreds of socially challenged people have successfully been helped with the SLA Molly Kessler Method! By cracking the code, the social language can now be taught – enabling more people to learn to speak and experience improved social integration and function. Parents and educations were encouraged to register for Ezer Mizion’s new SLA course so that their children may achieve what has been thus far impossible to attain.

Ezer Mizion remains on the cutting edge of professionalism and invites all friends of Ezer Mizion to visit its website at to view the many efforts to alleviate the varied challenges of Israel’s population. For further information, please call 718 853 8400.