Youth Movements: Individual Attention and Unique Activities for Special-Needs Children and Teenagers in the Evacuation Hubs

“Itay” (an alias) is a boy on the autism spectrum who lives in the city of Sderot. He and his family were evacuated to a hotel by the Dead Sea and have spent the past month and a half in a hotel room – the entire family. The special education systems that usually handle and support Itay are nonexistent at the hotel. That means that since October 7th, Itay’s life has become particularly difficult. This boy has been utterly cut off from the routine of care and consistent activity that are essential for him and his family to cope with the world.

Young people with disabilities and their families, like Itay’s, found themselves without the therapeutic arrangements that had surrounded their entire lives: special ed schools, adapted lessons, support treatments, accessibility, etc. For these children and teens, the trauma and anxiety of evacuation is compounded by the absence of suitable aid at the hubs. They and their families stand helpless in the face of such overwhelming difficulties.

Youth movement members on Service Year stepped up to meet this glaring need. They went to live in the evacuation hubs, furnished with the tools and knowledge necessary for working with disabled children and teens – know-how and experience gained back during their regular peacetime activity as counselors in youth movement troops that integrate special-needs children. They mapped out, located and contacted the families of such children and youths, and now offer individual attention, regular meetings and activities adapted for these deserving youngsters to spend a few hours keeping busy and getting some relief.

Itay might not be at home and still lacks his regular schedule and support system. But for a few magical hours almost every day, he enjoys a break, plays and goes on outings with the youth movements’ Service Year members. He receives from them a sense of stability as well as a place of peace and quiet. And there are dozens of other relocated kids and teens in the same predicament as Itay, with a wide range of disabilities.