In 1959, Michael 'Muki' Baum was born with cerebral palsy – and he was also profoundly deaf. When Muki was five months old, doctors told his parents, Dr. Nehama and Moshe Baum, "he will be a piece of meat you will carry with you all your life, put him in an institution." They decided to ignore the doctor's advice and made a commitment to each other, and to their son, that despite his severe physical and auditory challenges, they would not institutionalize him.
Fortunate twist of fate
No one could have anticipated that this special child, Muki, would become the tremendous source of inspiration for what followed and how it would benefit so many others living with multiple disabilities. When Dr. Nehama Baum gave birth to a son with cerebral palsy, it seemed a complete twist of fate. At the time of Muki's birth, Nehama was a social worker in Tel Aviv, Israel, specializing in family therapy for those with a child with cerebral palsy. Nehama was determined to use her professional expertise to help Muki learn and develop, giving him every opportunity that life had to offer. As a result, Muki was the first child in Israel with these complex handicaps to be integrated into the public school system. In 1976, Nehama brought Muki to Canada.
Birth of MukiBaum Treatment Centres
Muki's inspiration and Dr. Baum's dedication to supporting other families with children with dual diagnosis, led her to create MukiBaum Treatment Centres in 1979. Nehama's mission at the time was to provide children with combined developmental and emotional/psychiatric disorders, with compassionate, specialized therapies and services not available to them in the regular school system. For many children, attending MukiBaum offered hope by combining therapy with studies, especially to serve the unique needs of children living with multiple, complex challenges. This would ensure each child is given the opportunity to learn, develop and thrive while exploring their many passions and talents within safe and nurturing environments. They experience social inclusion, practice individual choice, become independent, actualize their potential and ability, achieve personal growth and become contributing members of society.
Since its inception, MukiBaum Treatment Centres has pioneered the use of in-depth psychotherapy, including play, music and art therapy, stemming largely from Nehama's lifelong belief, and years of acting experience in theatre, in the arts as an important tool in the treatment of people with complex disabilities. Nehama puts her beliefs and art training into practice, with her son and at MukiBaum. She has encouraged Muki to utilize his artistic talent since his childhood. He is a clay creator and sculptor and to this day continues to work in an art studio on a weekly basis.
In addition, sensory therapy has become an integral part of all MukiBaum's programs, to meet the needs of those with various sensory challenges. There are a variety of sensory rooms such as Multi-Sensory, Gross Motor, Snoezelen Relaxation, Stimulation and Wet Spa, as well as Virtual Reality. Many of these rooms incorporate innovative fibre optics, sound, bubble tubes, lighting, wall panels, projection and more to create multi-sensory environments that enable clients to excel, change, grow and resolve emotional and behavioural difficulties.
MukiBaum currently has two Children's Day Treatment Educational Schools. An Adult Day Treatment Program provides high school graduates with the opportunity to function in an adult environment to develop adult life skills and self-image. Eight High Support Residential Group Homes, as well as a number of local and international events also offer support to children and their families.
In addition to its regular programs and services, MukiBaum offers practical work placements and internships for college and university students with learning and research opportunities in programs including child and youth workers, direct care workers, developmental service workers, occupational therapists, psychology, nursing, social work, as well as therapies including expressive arts, art, drama, music and more. MukiBaum's Full-Time Applied Research Department works tirelessly on innovative applied research projects in the areas of Individual Quality of Life, Sensory Processing Challenges and Autism Spectrum Disorders; Medication Side Effects, Osteoporosis and Environmental Modification; Sensory Environments, Nutrition, Obesity and Health & Well-being.
Accessibility for life
The MukiBaum Accessibility Foundation was developed from the 32 years of dedicated experience MukiBaum Treatment Centres has brought to working with children, adults and their families. The primary goal is to enhance resource opportunities in support of the individuals at the treatment centres and to extend MukiBaum's reach into the community.
Accessibility is far more than opening physical doors, building ramps and widening corridors; ultimately, it's about striving to enable accessibility to all aspects of society. The vision of the MukiBaum Accessibility Foundation is to create possibilities that are not currently available for a population that is often marginalized. This will assure the provision of innovative, unique and creative programs enabling the children and adults they serve to develop, grow and succeed.
Additionally, the Foundation will focus on supporting the further development of MukiBaum's innovative clinical services, training, applied research and program evaluation capacity. Conclusions and lessons learned can be directly implemented into program planning and service provision.
From a small treatment centre with 7 students in 1979, the MukiBaum Association has grown to 167 children and adults with dual diagnosis and other secondary handicapping conditions. Dr. Baum continues to research and develop more effective treatments, often breaking new ground by introducing these therapies where they haven't been used before, like sandplay therapy for those with schizophrenia. It's easy to see the impact Nehama and Moshe's passionate commitment to their son, and their empathy for other parents walking in similar shoes, have had on improving the lives of families affected by multiple disabilities. Meet Muki once, and, a testament to his parents' immense love, patience and compassion, his beautiful smile will sculpt a treasure in a corner of your heart, as skillfully as he sculpts with clay. H&L
To learn about MukiBaum Treatment Centres programs and services, and the new MukiBaum Accessibility Foundation, visit mukibaum.com
Photographer: Nikki Leigh McKean