There are 12,000 intellectually disabled children and 22,000 intellectually disabled adults living in Israel today. Limitations in mental functioning and in abilities to care for themselves make this a highly vulnerable group in need of a wide range of long-term assistance.
The families of these children, 134,000 in all, are in need of help too. They face a daunting task when caring for an intellectually disabled child. The birth of an intellectually disabled child can be deeply distressing to families. These families need expert emotional support during the initial phases of first grasping and then accepting this life-altering event. They need guidance as to how to best deal with and educate their child, they need to be educated about the services and financial assistance that are available from the government, and they need long-term emotional and psychological support.
In response to these realities, AKIM was founded in 1951 as a national organization by the parents of intellectually disabled children who decided to take control of their children’s lives and promote their quality of life. Today that organization – AKIM- is the largest and most comprehensive provider of programs and services for the intellectually disabled in Israel.
With headquarters in Tel-Aviv, AKIM has an extensive network of 64 branches throughout Israel. These 64 branches are operated by parents of the intellectually disabled, 2000 volunteers and 300 professionals.
AKIM’s services range from a vigorous advocacy program advancing the rights of the intellectually disabled, to kindergartens and nurseries, after-school activities, group homes, job training, recreational programs and special “holidays” for adults, as well as support and education for parents. Self-advocacy, whose guiding principle is to allow the intellectually disabled individual to make decisions about his or her life, is stressed as well. These services are free for all those who need them even if they can not afford to pay.
AKIM serves a wide population: 19 social clubs for 2000 adults, 59 sheltered workshops for 2500 adults, summer camps for 2000 teen-agers and young adults, 24 group homes for 600 people, and 14 apartments in regular buildings with an average of 6 residents each