Posts Tagged ‘speech’

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!



Is “He” Still There?

August 10, 2016

pr voca Moti Ayish - Yaakov Cohen 13912880_684892444997028_5354953480749066038_n ok to useIt could happen to anyone. Maybe to the person who passes your house each day on the way to work or the man sitting across from you on the train. This time it happened to my ozeret. A very nice lady who has been coming to clean for me for years,” relates Yonit Hagoel-Karnieli, Director of Ezer Mizion’s Speech Generating Devices Lending Center.   “She was telling me about her brother-in-law who had a sudden heart attack. The heart attack led to a stroke which resulted in almost complete paralysis. From being a beloved member of a family, an active community member, he became a nothing- a vegetable. My ozeret was so upset. It was as if they suddenly lost him except that there he was- breathing but not much more. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t speak. Still a member of the family but no longer part of them. There was nothing they could do. They had to accept it. The doctors recommended putting him into a skilled care nursing facility where he would be ‘taken care of’. They’d feed him. Keep him clean and warm. He could live like that for many years. And he did live there. For one a half years. The family visited often but it was really among themselves that they conversed. The visit to the patient was a sham. Like a child playing make-believe. They were getting used to things. To talking around Moti instead of to him. His movements were no more human than the machinery that surrounded him. A slight grunt here and there. The Moti they had known was gone. Oh, they could pretend when they wanted to that the bit of a sound emitted was in response to his wife’s funny story. But they all knew it wasn’t real…Or was it? The same strange grunt as to last week’s joke. An almost whispered hum upon hearing about the bank’s mistake in his wife’s account. It couldn’t be real… could it? ”   My ozeret wanted my opinion. Was he comprehending their conversation? I decided to give it a try. I visited Moti Ayish armed with a large board. On one end was a picture of his daughter. On the other was a picture of his son. ‘Look at your daughter,’ I asked him. His eyes slowly turned. ‘Look at your son.’ His eyes moved to the other side of the board. Again. And again. I asked him a question and told him that if the answer is ‘no’ to close his eyes and if the answer is ‘yes’ to open his eyes and blink. He did. More questions. More answers. The real Moti was still there! Hidden under all that paralysis but still there.click2speak- eye movement device I gave the family exercises to do and brought them some devices to use from Ezer Mizion’s Lending Center that will enable communication using eye movement alone. After six months, he was in a rehab center and improving fast. Who can fathom the joy as he actually took part in conversations using a device called Click2Speak. The family laughed aloud when he told his wife to withdraw 2000 shekels from the bank. “What shall I use it for?” she asked.

“Meat. Vegetables. Also a dress.”

“A dress?”

“Yes, several.”

When a grandson was being annoying as per his job description as a child: “Stop annoying your mother,” clicked the hitherto ‘vegetable’ grandfather using nothing but his eye movement.

“How are you?” asked his visitor one day.


“Sad? But you should be so happy! Things are so much better now. It’s a miracle.”

“Yes. But I wish I could leave this place.”

Ezer Mizion ‘picked up the ball’ and taught him a new skill- how to use a computer by moving his eyes. He was now able to connect to the world and was often found listening to his favorite singer, Yaakov Cohen.

“I bet you would love to have Yaakov Cohen come to visit you, wouldn’t you?”

“That would be my dream!”

Ezer Mizion’s specialty is making dreams come true. In seconds, the question appeared on the Ezer Mizion What’s App, “Who has a relationship with Yaakov Cohen?” It wasn’t long before a response came in. Connections were made and Yaakov Cohen, the real Yaakov Cohen, not an image on a computer monitor, walked through the hospital doors. Ayish, who is unable to speak, wrote to Cohen by computer using nothing but eye movement, “I was at three of your performances. You are the greatest! I love you!” After all the jokes, Yaakov kissed Moti emotionally and told him, “Thanks for inviting me. I love you, too!”

Along with the gales of laughter, Ayish’s relatives dabbed at their tears. Simcha, Moti’s wife said, “I haven’t seen him so happy since the stroke.

Yonit and Debby ben-Tal, Ezer Mizion AAC Lending Center senior staff, have been invited to speak at the biennial ISAAC (International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication) international conference in Toronto, an event open to speech and communication specialists, medical professionals, and therapists from across the globe.

As experts in the field and Ezer Mizion AAC Lending Center representatives, they will be presenting in two sessions: one will address burnout issues of therapists and caretakers in dealing with communication-challenged patients and solutions. The second session will discuss Ezer Mizion’s Click2Speak development project which is collaborating with Google to promote technological innovations that will make the world more accessible for people with disabilities. Ezer Mizion was chosen by Google for its part in developing the Click2speak on-screen eye-tracking virtual keyboard that will enable people with high cognitive function and limited mobility to communicate and control their environment.

Ezer Mizion’s AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) Device Lending Center services the speech impaired, both children and adults, in Israel.

To share Moti’s excitement with Yaakov Cohen’s visit:,7340,L-4832512,00.html

To read more about Google’s allocation for Click2Speak:

For further info: 718 853 8400 5225 New Utrecht Ave Bk NY 11219


Speak for Yourself by Kobi Arieli

January 6, 2016

Do me a little favor. As you read these lines, look up for a moment and say something. Out loud. For instance, “Pizza with olives.” Someone will come into the room in a panic and ask if you lost your mind. You will laugh aloud and say: “It’s nothing. Just that weird Arieli with his nonsense. Everything is fine.”
Communication. This handy word that we instantly associate nowadays with an exclusive interview with a government minister or a strike by workers at the TV channel or a news bulletin. We’ve almost forgotten that it also has a basic meaning, more basic than any other: The ability of man to maintain a connection with those around him. To benefit from others, to give to them, to ask, to express emotions, to reflect other people’s emotions. To live. That is what you did just a moment ago. You produced a sound. Someone asked you something. You answered. That is how human society lives.
pr voca 2012 1506_ne_photo_stories1_27301We have almost forgotten that some people lack this basic ability. Ezer Mizion National Headquarters. Fourth Floor. The Speech Generating Device Lending Center. Ezer Mizion’s remarkable place for technological solutions for the speech impaired, one of only three of its kind in the entire world. This floor of Ezer Mizion provides responses for the almost infinite spectrum of people who were not gifted with – or lost – the ability to communicate with those around them through speech.
Just before, they brought here a 43-year-old fellow, precisely my age. Until 4 years ago, he was just like you and me. Actually, even more – he was active and made a career in the business world. He talked and laughed and exulted and issued orders and told stories. He never stopped talking.
Then came the illness, and with it, the degeneration. Gradually, his muscular systems crashed, one after the other. His body became paralyzed, incapable of the slightest movement. From this entity of roaring life, nothing is left but a pained, extinguished look, eyes that seek death, but cannot even express the wish. An unfortunate man, imprisoned in his body.
pr voca touch chat 1517_ne_photo_stories1_ab143A smart system for communication via focused eye movement is positioned opposite his wilting look. Someone explains to him the operating instructions and there is a glimmer in his eye.
A keyboard on the screen.
Effort. Concentration.
The letter “Shin” appears clearly on the screen. He said “Shin”! He wrote “Shin”!
Shalom! He said ‘Shalom’! This man, who was submerged in depression for a half year, shackled in the muscles of his frozen body, said “Shalom!” Suddenly, you could see a spark of life race through him. A light appears at the end of his dark tunnel. He apparently will never get back on his feet, but he will love and ache and experience and will also be able to express it all.
This case is at one extreme of the spectrum. The population of communication disabled is large. The number is estimated at 1.5 % of the general population. Ezer Mizion provides solutions for them all, beginning with children on the autistic spectrum, who receive basic systems and accessories, and on to complex, sophisticated systems like the one described here.
All the communication solutions, all the life solutions, under one roof.
pr voca“We encounter these scenes daily,” says speech therapist Yonit Hagoel Karnieli, director of the Center for the last twenty-five years. “We are privileged to feel the rush of emotion each time anew when a girl on the autistic spectrum says ‘Ima’ for the very first time, when an ALS patient manages to communicate again, when men and women suddenly step back into the communication loop, into the life circle.”
This Center, which operates in collaboration with israel’s National Insurance Institute, is the only one of its kind providing a response to residents of Israel.
When all is said and done: What is a more natural cause for an organization whose banner and symbol is mutual responsibility than a center promoting interpersonal communication? Thank you, Ezer Mizion!

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:

Giving A Voice to Those That Cannot Speak

March 16, 2011

Ezer Mizion: Giving A Voice to Those That Cannot Speak

Speech therapists from all over Israel participated in a three day conference coordinated and hosted by Ezer Mizion’s VOCA (Voice Output Communication Aids) “Omer Center” on the topic of Alternative and Augmentative Communication.
Ezer Mizion’s VOCA Omer Center provides an invaluable service by evaluating needs and capabilities of people with challenges in the areas of verbal communication, comprehension and accessibility.
The Center expands the knowledge of professionals in the field, and – most importantly – strives to provide every person with tools to communicate with those around him and fulfill a basic human need.
The VOCA Omer Center performs comprehensive and sophisticated evaluations for children and adults with congenital or acquired deficits in the area of expressive and receptive speech and computer accessibility.
At a national convention for speech therapists, the head of the Center, Ms. Yonit Hagoel-Karnieli, gave a fascinating talk on the subject of alternative communication. In the wake of that speech, many of the clinicians from the audience expressed interest in a more intensive treatment of the topic.
As a result, speech therapists at the Omer Center headed by Hagoel-Karnieli put together a three day conference at Ezer Mizion. Among the topics discussed at the workshop: Expanding and deepening knowledge about alternative communication, detailed explanations of the speech generating (VOCA) devices and talking computers employed for this purpose, the needs being met, the target populations, different types of alternative communication devices, new innovations in the field, strategies, work approaches, and more.
Lectures at the workshop were delivered by speech therapists Dr. Goody Wein, Ms. Yedida Levin, and Ms. Sharon Shachar, as well as Tzofit Elbak, a special education teacher, and Yonit Hagoel-Karnieli, head of the Center.
Tens of thousands of adults and children in Israel struggle with severe speech limitations. Throughout the world, augmentative and alternative communication is an accepted therapeutic tool for people suffering from severe speech limitations due to cerebral palsy, developmental delay, autism, strokes, brain tumors, major accidents, and more.
In order to help people with these handicaps, a variety of devices and communication computers have been developed. These serve as superior communication aids for communication challenged people and often constitute their only way of verbally connecting with those around them.
These devices give the user ability to communicate at the touch of a button (or, at times, even through a focused glance) and enable him to “vocalize” pre-recorded messages or phrases typed into the device.
In view of the tremendous success of the conference, additional workshops are planned for professionals on the topic of speech generating devices and communication techniques and strategies.
for further info:

US Ambassador Visits Ezer Mizion

November 4, 2010

In an effort to get his finger on the pulse of the inner workings of this tiny Middle-East country, US Ambassador to Israel, Mr. James B. Cunningham, visited Ezer Mizion, Israel’s Health Support Organization, which has served Israel’s population since 1979.


The Ambassador was accompanied by his wife and embassy staff, including Ms. Bonnie Gutman, Counselor for Public Affairs, Mr. Leslie Smith, Senior Program Assistant at the embassy’s Public Affairs Office, Mr. Joseph Tordella, Deputy Cultural Affairs Officer, and others. They were escorted by Rabbi Yaakov Asher, Mayor of Bnei Brak, Rabbi Chanoch Zeitbart, Vice Mayor and municipal council members and Rabbi Aaron Dovid Davis, Director of the International Division at Central Agudath Israel in Jerusalem. 


The Ambassador, together with his celebrated entourage, was given an overview of Ezer Mizion’s broad scope of programs and its history. Never had the visitors seen an organization whose services ranged from geriatric care and prophylactic programs to varied undertakings to enhance the lives of the special child; from hi-tech equipment for the speech impaired to professional therapy for the child with cancer.  The ambassador was introduced to Ezer Mizion’s International Jewish Bone Marrow Registry which has saved the lives of so many cancer patients around the globe whose only chance of survival had been a bone marrow transplant. The presentation ended with a video of the emotional meeting between a bone marrow donor and an American cancer patient whose lifesaving transplant was facilitated by Ezer Mizion. The audience was brought to tears by the recipient’s expression of thanks to his donor and to Ezer Mizion.


Two Down syndrome girls then presented the Ambassador and his wife with a lovely oil painting and an exquisite piece of jewelry, both created by the girls at Ezer Mizion’s Beit Chana Activity Clubs for Special Needs Children. The ambassador was impressed upon hearing of the atmosphere of love and encouragement engendered by highly trained professionals and devoted volunteers at Beit Chana who have constructed programs enabling these children to grow and flourish and say to the world, “Yes, we can!”   



The girls enthusiastically told the guests: “We love coming to Ezer Mizion. This is our home! We have so much fun here. Would you like to see the club?” Ambassadors are very busy people. The schedule was tight and the hour was late. But one word from a very special child caused the hearts of assemblage to melt and the Goddess of Schedules to crumble. “Please?” she asked. The Ambassador and his wife – who were about to leave – turned around and went upstairs to visit the Beit Chana Activity Clubs where they graciously greeted a large group of special needs children together with the professional staff and many volunteers.


The tour of Ezer Mizion was an eye-opener for the Ambassador where he was able to see how Israel’s Jews care for one another. The Ambassador was deeply impressed with Ezer Mizion’s activities and saluted Chananya Chollak, who founded Ezer Mizion with his wife Leah in their modest apartment. “I am grateful for this opportunity to view up close an organization that grew from eight volunteers to 11,000 volunteers who work under a diverse, wide-ranging professional staff.” Jew helping Jew-this is what makes Israel the amazing country that it is.

Ezer Mizion: Their Challenges/ Our Mission.

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.