Mifne Center

In a sleepy picturesque
artists haven, amid fragrant greenery in the small mountaintop village of
Rosh Pina in the Galilee, despondent children are brought to life anew.

The Mifne Center in Rosh

The Mifne Center in Rosh
Frustrated parents, whose child has
been diagnosed with either autism or PDD (pervasive development disorder),
arrive at the Mifne Center in a desperate effort to connect with their child.
These families often feel that their lives and their expectations for the
future have come to a halt.

The dream of founder Hanna Alonim,
the Mifne Center was established to disprove the oft-repeated mantra
that autistic children did not respond to treatment. “In the 1970s it was
believed that there was no treatment for autism. During my university studies
when I studied Special Education, I realized that whatever I learned in
the textbooks did not apply to real life,” relates Alonim. The rest is history
and the Mifne Center is testimony to one woman’s refusal to accept the unacceptable.

The Mifne Center is an early intervention
program for families with an affected child under the age of five.

Mifne’s on-site therapy pool
Mifne, the Hebrew term for turning
, does just that. The team at Mifne works intensely with the child
and the family to create channels of communication. The teamwork approach
by therapists seeks to develop methods to reach the child in a manner that
allows avenues for interaction. The “modest” goals that are set for the child
and family in therapy are eye contact, the expression of affection and social

Established in 1987, the Mifne method
forges a connection with the child and alters the family’s interpersonal dynamics.
In Israel, The Mifne Center is the first program to promote early childhood

Play area

Current statistics indicate that 1
in 1,000 children are autistic. The broad definition of autism/PDD accounts
for this seemingly high number.

The children who come to Mifne have
been diagnosed as autistic and/or afflicted with PDD. Two thirds of the
families are from the local Israeli population. Mifne’s other patients come
from Switzerland, Canada, the U.K., Cyprus, Greece, Italy, South Africa,
and the U.S.

The Mifne method which was developed
at the Center, is a three- to four-week program for the nuclear family. A
key element developed at Mifne is the Reciprocal Play Therapy during
which the therapist reacts to the child’s responses in order to build trust
and a common language. The family learns how to recognize the actual dysfunction
and how to move towards improvement.

The intensive treatment program operates
at least eight hours a day, seven days a week. The affected child, parents
and siblings are all involved in the treatment. After a few days, the child
begins to demonstrate behavioral patterns that give the therapists insight
and enable them to give detailed feedback and advice to the parents.

Taken out of their normal setting
and placed in the peaceful, calm, quiet Mifne environment, the children are
released from distractions. The Center’s atmosphere is non-judgmental and
accepting. After a week, changes in behavior start to surface.

A team of twelve multi-disciplinary
therapists works together with the child and the family members. Therapists
are trained in Mifne’s holistic approach which focuses on the whole child.

Therapists come to the Center with
backgrounds in education, medicine, psychology, and special education. On-site
training may take up to a year.

With only up to two families in treatment
at one time, there is usually a six-month waiting period. Treatment costs
$20,000. Israeli families pay on a sliding scale. Funds are raised mainly
from the Mifne Swiss Foundation, under the direction of Dr. E. Braunschweig,
Zurich, Switzerland, and the Doron Foundation.

The Mifne Center program is only the
beginning of a long process. A short while after the family returns home,
a therapist from Mifne visits to supervise and guide them. During this
transition phase the therapist stays with the family and helps them to adjust.
Together with the family, the therapist helps integrate the affected child
into school and to arrange supplementary therapy as needed. The Mifne relationship
is ongoing and families and therapists maintain long-term connections.

Text by M. Kaplan-Green


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