"It was amazing! Thank you for letting me be a part of this experience." That was how a high-school student from Jerusalem described the weeklong SHEKEL summer course for youth with Asperger (high functioning Autism). Seventy high school students with Asperger syndrome who are integrated in regular schools all over Jerusalem, participated in the SHEKEL summer program, currently in its fourth year.
The program allows each student to choose a course that is of personal interest to them, and enjoy an intensive social and learning experience for an entire week. This year, participants were divided into four courses: website-building, dog-training, photography and art. Each course was designed with a specific employment orientation, and all courses were intended to develop team work, while furthering communication and socialization skills. For many of the participants, it was the first time they felt part of a broad social framework. While most teenagers their age look excitedly forward to promising futures, many teens with Asperger's feel despondent and hopeless. During the weeklong course at SHEKEL, they discover many of the employment opportunities and living options that will be open to them, through SHEKEL, after their graduation.
The SHEKEL summer course program is coordinated in partnership with the students' high schools throughout the school year. For the first time, this year the courses will continue to run throughout the school year. This is the only program of its kind in Israel.