The Mifne Approach
The Mifne Concept
Many changes have occurred in the perception of autism in the past two decades. Ample resources have been invested in research studies. The autism spectrum has been expanded, producing a consequent increase in statistics on the frequency of autism, accompanied by increased public awareness. In recent years, several genes have been identified with the autism spectrum that almost certainly constitute part of a larger group of genes, which when decoded could seriously advance science in this field. Although there are not sufficient empirical findings, the current approach to the autism syndrome is Epi-genetic, meaning that both genetic and environmental factors are involved in its genesis. New understanding concerning autism in the 1990s led to the establishment of many programs and organizations to help young children with autism.
A painting by Moshe Rosenthalis
The Mifne (‘Turning Point’ in Hebrew) Intervention Program was established in 1987 in Israel by Dr. Hanna Alonim. This multi-component intervention model was the first to recognize the importance of individual intensive treatment and parental participation. The Center in Rosh Pinna treats infants up to age two diagnosed on the autism spectrum, with their nuclear families, from Israel and overseas. Twenty-five years of observation and treatment of hundreds of children and their families, as well as studies that have been conducted at the Mifne Center, by both external (Apter et al., 2001) and internal experts, (Alonim et al., 2004, 2011, 2010, 2007) have established several critical basic assumptions:
Early Signs related to autism can often already be observed in the baby’s first year of life; Findings from research conducted in the last decade at the Mifne Center indicate eight warning signs that can point to a pre-autism condition at this early stage. In most cases it is possible to quite easily identify these signs, if the awareness of professionals and parents is sharpened. DSM
Detection: In 2007 the Mifne Center established an Early Detection Unit at the Sourasky Tel-Aviv Medical Center. On top of a battery of medical tests, the TA Center uses the ESPASI screening scale developed at the Mifne Center.
Treatment: As the age at which children diagnosed decreased, it has been possible to see better results in their progress. The age for treatment has gradually decreased at the Mifne Center and is presently determined to be up to age two. Treatment of attachment and interaction difficulties in the first stages of a baby’s life can in many cases prevent the development of the phenomenon, highlighting the importance of early detection.
The Infants’ Treatment Program focuses on the entire range of the baby’s developmental components: physical – sensory – motor – emotional – cognitive aspects through the use of Reciprocal Play Therapy, a method developed at the Mifne Center to motivate and provide an impetus for the improvement of the baby’s abilities to engage and communicate with the environment out of curiosity and pleasure.
The Family: Reciprocal relations, anxieties and crises in the family system have a decisive influence on each of the family members; the Mifne Center has therefore evolved a family therapy approach system as an essential source of support and family guidance. Adopting the perception that parents are actually the main resource of their children and that they have the ability to promote their development during the meaningful early infancy stages, the program encompasses the entire nuclear family. The therapeutic approach combines medical, mental, socio-psychological and environmental aspects. The program includes: observation of the baby’s developmental components and their meanings, personal/marital/ family feedback sessions, as well as work with the infant’s siblings, all according to the needs of each specific family. Parents are fully involved, treated and trained regarding the therapeutic processes for their children in order to sustain and implement them in their daily life.