I began my career as an occupational therapist in 1973. For many years I worked with children who had slight learning disabilities. In 1987 I felt a need to change work places and began working in Beit Issie Shapiro, in Israel, an institution that serves people with developmental disabilities and their families.
I soon felt that I could not communicate with this population and I was desperate to find a solution to the conventional treatment approaches.
My luck led me to meet Ad Verheul from Hartenberg in the Netherlands. The more I heard about Snoezelen, the more I liked it. I met many wonderful people who were involved in Snoezelen with different populations, amongst them: Joe Kewin, Linda Messbauer, Wilma Kok, Kees Salentyn and Ilse Achterberg. All these people shared their knowledge and expertise and helped to understand the new concept.
In 1993 the first Snoezelen facility was set up in Israel and today there are more than 200 facilities. I carried out empirical research on the efficacy of the Snoezelen and in 1997 published results proving that Snoezelen is capable of both reducing maladaptive behaviors, facilitating adaptive behaviors and also having an impact on physiological changes in the nervous system: reducing heart rate in children who have developmental disability and are hyperactive and increasing heart rate in children who have developmental disability and are passive.
Snoezelen continues to grow and we continue to learn and carry out research. For me, the Snoezelen approach has been very meaningful. Through this approach I have learned to communicate with people I thought could not communicate. Today I know it was me who could not communicate, not my clients. I was not open for this kind of relationship. Before I understood Ad Verheul's philosophy I was in constant conflict with myself regarding people with developmental disability: asking questions, like: What kind of quality of life can these people have? And why are there people like this in the world? How do the families manage?
Snoezelen, in its semi lit atmosphere where people are all at eye level, where the music is soft and the atmosphere non-threatening, helped me as a therapist to find calm in myself. The non demanding attitude worked on me before my clients. I learned to take a deep breath and take a step back and let the client teach me how to "Snoezel" (as Ad would say). This was the beginning of a new way of accepting people with special needs.
Today I no longer ask these questions. I don't feel the need to. Rather I accept all people in a different way. Each and every one of us is different and interesting. We can see this if we look for it!
I thank you once again, Ad Verheul, one of my special teachers for giving me this special opportunity in life !!!
Ilse I want to congratulate you for this wonderful website. You have always wanted to help people share their knowledge and what a wonderful service you provide.
All my love Michele Shapiro
Director of Snoezelen and Environmental Design,
Beit Issie Shapiro
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