Who Are We?
ALUT was established in 1974 by parents of autistic children in order to better serve the needs of autistic children and their families. ALUT's mission is to ensure the well-being, rehabilitation, future and economic status of persons with autism in Israel. ALUT provides educational, residential, vocational and leisure-time services to people with autism and works to advance their rights and to improve the services available to them and their families.
Over 5,000 individuals in Israel have been diagnosed with autism and 250 infants are diagnosed annually. Until several years ago, the only treatment available to autistic children and adults was admission in psychiatric hospitals.
ALUT is revolutionizing the treatment of autistic toddlers, children and adults by doing the following:
- Establishing effective, integrated, individualized educational programs and maximizing special education services at ALUT's nurseries and treatment centers for toddlers (Alutaf).
- Establishing rehabilitation and occupational centers for the adults.
- Establishing "Homes for Life", residential homes for autistic people.
- Training professionals to work in this field.
- Providing assistance to families of people with autism.
- Advocating to advance the rights of autistic people and to improve the services available to them and their families.
Autism is a lifelong neuro-developmental disorder, which typically appears during the first three years of a child's life. It occurs in approximately 1 out of every 250 births and is four times more prevalent in males than females. Autism affects a person's ability to communicate, form relationships with others, and respond appropriately to the surrounding environment. Autism affects families throughout the world of all racial, ethnic and social backgrounds. It is a complex developmental disability that typically results in a neurological disorder which affects the functioning of the brain. It impacts the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction and communication skills, resulting typically in difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities. Some people with autism exhibit repeated body movements, unusual responses to people or attachments to objects, and resistance to changes in routine. They may experience sensitivities in the five senses. There are currently no therapeutic cures for autism, although early behavioral intervention dramatically improves outcome. With support and care, individuals with autism can realize at least some of their personal goals and dreams.
I. Pre-Kindergartens (Alutaf) - Nurseries and Treatment Centers
Early intervention can make the difference between an autistic child who can interact with his or her surroundings and one who cannot. A child with autism needs an intensive learning environment where he or she can focus, follow directions, and imitate appropriate behaviors. However, although autism is diagnosed from an age as early as 18 months, no government facilities are available in Israel for children under the age of three.
In 2001, ALUT was given use of a building at the "Assaf Harofe" Hospital for the first Alutaf - Early Childhood Center. This Alutaf has provided intensive interdisciplinary developmental treatment for autistic children between the ages of 18 months and 3 years. In 2003 ALUT operated six such Alutaf centers throughout the country. Consistent with ALUT's developmental approach, these centers also relate to the needs of the family unit by offering counseling to parents.
Monthly operating expenses for 10 children averages $30,000.
II. Equipping Alutaf Kindergartens
Early intervention through structured teaching is extremely important in order to promote independence and success among children with autism. Alut - together with the Ministry of Education and Culture - has established some nine kindergartens for children with autism between the ages of three and seven. Each kindergarten enrolls between six and twelve children. They are located throughout the country, in the communities where the children live. In order to implement a comprehensive and intensive educational program, it is imperative to provide each kindergarten with the tools needed to effectively teach children with autism. However, due to budgetary restrictions, many of the physical structures and basic furniture currently available are poorly suited for these challenged children. Without special equipment it is almost impossible to create an optimal environment for the development of children with autism.
The average cost of equipping one kindergarten is $35,000.
III. ABA - Applied Behavioral Analysis
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) employs methods based on scientific principles of behavior to build socially useful repertoires and reduce problematic ones. Extensive research has shown that children with autism do not learn readily from typical environments, but many can learn a great deal given appropriate instruction. Behavior analytic treatment for autism focuses on teaching small, measurable units of behavior systematically.
A treatment center that acts as a referral point for children in need of treatment and provides a supporting framework has been established. The kindergarten utilizes the educational treatment approach based on the principles of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). The center provides therapeutic services in a central location, thus saving the families the need to "run after" professionals. The center administers assessments and provides services for children with extensive developmental disabilities, such as autism / PDD.
The center provides state-of-the-art care to children who have been diagnosed as suffering from autism or other communication disorders, and for whom no alternative treatment is being provided elsewhere. The center aims to provide two kinds of basic needs: the need for early intervention and the need to pool resources of both knowledge and professional staff. In addition to the services being provided to the children, the center also provides various support services to the parents.
Target PopulationABA treatment targets children with autism/PDD and communication disorders, from the moment assessment is made (typically at age one and half years) until the age of three. If necessary resources become available, the children continue to attend these special kindergartens until the age of seven.
The Center's annual operating budget averages $490,695.
The Center's monthly operating budget averages $438 per child.
IV. Occupational Centers: "TOWARDS INDEPENDENT LIVING"
ALUT's guiding principle is that normalized, community-based working and living arrangements are the optimal environment for people with autism. ALUT has designed unique models that emphasize members' abilities, and not their disabilities. The Vocational Centers provide work and habilitation programs for their members age 21 and above. At present there are four such Centers: Kfar Ofarim, Ramat Hasharon, Jerusalem, Holon and Netanya. Vocational programs help each member develop the skills necessary for either sheltered employment or part time work within the community, depending on each individual's ability. After assessing the abilities, needs and interests, individual training programs are developed. Professional instructors work in the workshops. Vocational Centers are urgently needed all over the country.
The cost of constructing and equipping one vocational center averages $700,000.
V. Residential Living: "HOMES FOR LIFE"
For many years, the only available option for an alternative living arrangement for autistic children was a psychiatric institution. The traditional approach has given way to a more modern one based on a developmental model and the mainstreaming principle. It maintains that people with special needs should integrate into the community, rather than be kept hidden from it.
In keeping with this principle, ALUT has established 15 Homes for Life throughout Israel. The homes are located in residential areas, with daily life resembling normal family life as much as possible. The Homes provide warmth and a sheltered environment for life, helping members to acquire daily living skills with special attention to self awareness, interpersonal communication and integration into the community. Homes are operated by professional staff and volunteers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The average cost of constructing a Home for Life for 16 members is $1,600,000. The cost of equipment for a Home for Life averages $145,000.