What's New

Re’im Social Groups for People with Learning and Communications Disabilities.

Re’im (“friends”) is a set of unique social groups for youth and adults with learning and communication challenges. The program serves people who have complex learning difficulties and disabilities (CLDD) and pervasive developmental disorders (PDD), which include the autism spectrum as well as Asperger’s syndrome.

Throughout their lives, these youth and adults have fallen through the cracks and most have not been accepted or understood by ‘normal’ society. This population is painfully lonely, unable to sustain social activities, and have trouble making friends and joining community activities. Particularly in Israel’s peripheral communities, these individuals are isolated and afraid due to a lack of social skills, preventing them From attempting to make social contact or gain employment, further exacerbating their conditions.

It is difficult to exaggerate the scope of the Re’im program’s influence: people who experience deep loneliness, alienation and distress are able for the first time to feel that they belong and have valuable insights to offer to others. The program cultivates real people-to-people relationships between the participants and their community and between the participants towards him/herself. It is a life changing experience. The process is lengthy, but the changes are real. The Re’im program repairs the world of each participant and his/her family – it is a true fulfillment of tikkun olam.

In the Re’im groups, social relationships are created and the responses of the participants are moving. A sample of some of the responses we have received from a wide group of participants are as follows: “The group has changed my life”; “All week I wait for Monday to come to the group”; “I finally have someone to talk to on the phone”; ” I learned to listen to cell phone messages-until now nobody was leaving me messages”; “This is the first time I went to an Independence Day party or Lag Ba’omer bonfire without a family member”. Family members report a sense of great relief, because now their children have a pleasant and supportive social group. Recently, a Re’im facilitator received this note from a participant’s mother: “Dear Liat, Today is my birthday. Thanks to you I received the greatest gift I could receive – to see Yoav happy, among friends, as he and all his friends in the group deserve. You are a magician. I have no words to thank you enough”.

Each Re’im group meets once each week for a 2-hour session in the local IACC Community Center. The facilitated group meetings are fun social events and in parallel serve as experiential practice of social and communication skills with like-minded individuals, including: participating in a discussion, listening, reciprocity, timing of social interactions, capacity to understand social activity, conflict resolution, teamwork, etc. Participants gain skills and as time progresses, they tackle specific increasingly complex social tasks. For example, participants work together to independently organize a group outing. Participants must initiate contact with one another, choose a time and place and then go out. Another challenging task is encouraging participants to lead Re’im sessions. The ongoing weekly group meetings include various activities:

Specialist Workshops: Expert facilitators are invited to lead specific workshops to develop social skills, enhance self-confidence and help participants realize their potential. These workshops offer skills in relationships and sexuality, emotional regulation, life skills, financial management, sex education, nutrition and healthy lifestyle.

Participant Facilitated Sessions: Re’im staff encourages participants to lead Re’im sessions. The participant serves as facilitator and has to choose a topic, build the content of the session, encourage others to participate, and take others’ needs into account.

Outings and Events: Throughout the year Rei’m runs special events including an annual launch event, Hanukkah, Purim and Lag B’Omer celebrations and year end parties. Re’im facilitators help participants organize independent group outings to cafés. Each year Re’im operates two trips, a one-day trip for youth Re’im participants and a two-day trip for adult Re’im participants. In addition, Re’im’s participant-led council (see below) organizes an annual conference which features lectures and group discussions on various topics from everyday life.