How Mifne Evolved
The Mifne Developmental Process
During the past two decades the public perception and attitude regarding autism have changed significantly, resulting in three major developments:
|1. Recent and ongoing research reveals a greater number of factors related to autism than previously thought—biological, metabolic, neurological, and genetic. A number of genes, for example, have been discovered that have been identified as having characteristics of the autism spectrum and are quite likely to be part of a much larger genetic group. Autism also now figures in the study of epigenetics, a concept that combines genetics and environmental factors.
|2. Public awareness of the various manifestations of autism has increased and the definition of autism spectrum has expanded, leading to a steep statistical increase in diagnoses of autism. Many new types of intervention programs have been developed and research is being carried out all over the western world.
|3. The age of diagnosis has gradually dropped as a result of increased awareness regarding the early onset of autism. Nevertheless, there is still much room for progress in determining the nature and effectiveness of treatment of infants in order to significantly affect their development, such as focusing on pre-autism factors during infancy.
The Mifne (‘Turning Point’ in Hebrew) Intervention Model has been applied in Israel since 1987. The model was developed on the basis of Alonim’s professional experience as an expert in developmental disorders, especially of the autism spectrum.
From 1972 until 1987, Alonim worked as a therapist with children with communication disorders (including children with hearing loss who were often mistakenly diagnosed as autistic). During the 1970s and the early 1980s, she was convinced that something was missing in treatment frameworks for children with autism, both in Israel and overseas due to a lack of any clear understanding of the disorder and thus of any clear direction in treatment. Before the age of the Internet, precious little information was exchanged worldwide in the field of autism. At that time early intervention in autism and whole-family inclusion in therapy were strategies that were not even conceived of.
In the course of her work with children, Alonim came to the conclusion that several essential components needed to be changed at the professional level and which led to her decision to develop the Mifne Method.
|1. Autism-specific Treatment. At this early stage there were no therapeutic intervention programs in the field of autism. Children with autism were incorporated into special-school frameworks with large groups of children, evincing a whole range of childhood disorders. The Child’s Age. Starting treatment of a child at the age of six involved complex problems due to the difficulty in effecting significant changes in the child’s characteristic patterns of behavior, patterns that had already been well established. Alonim’s observations have since been supported by a large body of literature that maintains that the earlier the intervention the better. Reducing the age of diagnosis required close collaboration with the relevant Israeli authorities who at first were reticent to make changes. With time, however, Alonim’s efforts bore fruit and the age for diagnosis and treatment was gradually reduced.
|2. Intensity of Treatment. During her many years of work with children with autism, Alonim noticed that they usually failed to transfer what they experienced in one treatment session to the next, with any gains proving too evanescent to affect their routine behavior. This led to her decision to work intensively with each child for a few hours each day, a revolutionary change considering the routine lack of intensity in the treatment practices of the day.
|3. Inclusion of the Whole Family in Therapy. According to Alonim’s approach a child’s treatment should involve the entire family due to the fact that the family constitutes the extrinsic environment that continually influences the child, a framework that also has to cope with the child’s difficulties on a daily basis.
In 1987, together with two of her colleagues, Alonim established the Mifne non-profit therapeutic center, which constituted the first model for early intervention in the treatment of autism in Israel. The therapeutic rationale of the Mifne Model emerged from the experience and insights that Alonim and her colleagues had gained from their work, and constitute the underpinnings of the current intervention program that employ the following practice principles:
|1. Intensive individual treatment in conjunction with whole-family therapy
|2. Aftercare treatment at home with the help of skilled therapists
|3. Integration of the toddler in society within his own peer group
The Mifne Center
Early Diagnosis Can Save Your Child
A team of skilled therapists work with each infant on emotional, cognitive, sensory, and physical levels, focusing on what these children lack and what most children find so natural: the ability to bond. The overall concept of the Mifne Model is to engage the infant rather than to teach him. Reciprocal Play Therapy (RPT), which was developed at the Mifne Center, is used to help the child discover the pleasure of human bonding and communication.
Seventy-nine percent of the children from Israel and from other countries, treated at the Mifne Center from 1987 until 2012 (Alonim, 2012) have been successfully integrated into and are now functioning within mainstream educational institutions. Beginning in 1990, the Mifne Center also became the pioneer in integrating children into mainstream kindergartens throughout Israel.
Further development of the model has also resulted in a new awareness of the need to treat an infant’s eating disorders from an early age, following the example of the treatment of many early children who had all exhibited serious eating disorders in different ways.
Over the years, much thought was given to developing the treatment framework and its therapeutic content. At that time in the 1980’s, there were no reports in professional literature about early intervention models. The Mifne Model was developed independently of any other and was considered totally innovative. Later on reports of other intervention programs simultaneously began to appear in different places in the world. It is interesting to note that other programs used in the treatment of autism, e.g. ABA, DIR, were developed in the late 1980’s and 1990’s. Yet since they were implemented in various countries at a time when there was no Internet, their methods of treatment were only published much later.