Special in Uniform

November 15, 2016

Source: Times of Israel


In 2014, I left the army and joined Lt. Col Ariel Almog and, together with the Yad Layeled organization (and in partnership with JNF-USA), we founded the “Special in Uniform” program. The program integrates thousands of young people with disabilities into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and, in turn, into Israeli society. We see the inclusion of people with disabilities in the army as a way to help usher them into a self-sufficient life once they are discharged from the army. Our belief is that everyone belongs and has the right to reach his or her full potential. Special in Uniform focuses on the unique talents of each individual participant to help each one find a job that is a perfect fit for the individual’s skills within the IDF. The attention is on the ability, not the disability, of each individual, encouraging independence and integration into society.

The program begins with a process of evaluation and assessment by our professional team, followed by a three-month course of life skills and occupational skills training. The approach of this life and occupational skills curriculum is to blend academics, daily living, personal/social, and occupational skills into integrated lessons designed to help the students learn to function independently in society.

Training also includes social interaction through a variety of interesting activities and workshops, such as drama, sewing, cooking, sing-alongs, and nature hikes. Under the guidance of a psychologist, youth engage in meaningful discussions pertaining to societal interaction, with a special emphasis on normative behavior, personal independence, positive self-image, and combating personal over-sensitivity.

Military service begins with a 10-day pre-induction training program course, including group formation led by professionals. Afterwards, the soldiers are integrated into a variety of jobs as part of the military manpower.

Throughout the program, the soldiers are mentored by a team of experienced and dedicated professionals, who invest all their energy in the soldiers, providing them with warmth and love. The team consists of a psychologist, a social worker, and instructors with professional training.

Today, Special in Uniform programming goes beyond the walls of IDF bases. It helps its graduates find employment and assists them in integrating into the workforce as well as in other aspects of Israeli society in meaningful ways.

One day, perhaps, this will not be seen as newsworthy or surprising, but rather for what it is: a tested truth that inclusion of individuals with disabilities benefits all who participate.

Read the entire post at The Times of Israel

Updated: Nov. 23, 2016