A child with complex disabilities paints an original work of art using a spherical robot controlled by an iPad at Aleh’s special education school in Gedera.

The robotics classroom at Aleh’s special education school in Gedera was transformed last month into an innovative art program that makes painting accessible to its students with severe complex disabilities. These students find hand-eye coordination skills difficult to acquire, and manipulating a paintbrush would be an insurmountable task for them.

After spending several months teaching the students how to control spherical robots with iPads, the special educators at Aleh — Israel’s network of care for children with severe complex disabilities — helped the students take the next developmental and creative leap to using the robots as brushes on a canvas. After dipping the spheres in washable paint and placing them on the canvas, the students were encouraged to use the iPad to control the spheres, creating lines, shapes, and beautiful designs with every continuous finger stroke on the touch screen.

Naama Sudkewitz, the director of Aleh’s residential and special-education center in Gedera, explained: “Aleh has been using art as an educational tool and developmental accelerator for decades. By providing our residents with severe complex disabilities with a creative outlet, and showing them that they can be in control of a process from start to finish, we are able to promote unprecedented growth, satisfying their need for recognition, a sense of accomplishment, and feelings of independence, all core elements of the human experience. We decided to fuse technology with art in order to take our art empowerment philosophy to the next level, making the creative process uniquely accessible to children with complex disabilities, while at the same time enhancing a host of other skills as well.”

Aleh has always been among the world’s pioneers in using advanced technology for the education and rehabilitation of the disability community. Utilizing virtual reality, computerized eye-tracking systems, iPads, and gaming devices, Aleh provides specialized therapeutic treatments for children with muscular and cognitive disabilities, allows residents with physical limitations to experience the pleasures of childhood that are otherwise inaccessible, and helps non-verbal residents communicate their needs to staff and volunteers.

Aleh’s new robotics powered art program can be used in many educational and rehabilitative settings to help children with varied abilities expand their motor, social, communication, and learning skills. Over the coming months, the Aleh staff and students will present the program to specialists in education and rehabilitative treatment to promote its use in special education workshops around Israel.

Since its establishment in 1982, Aleh has provided Israeli children who have severe complex disabilities with the best available care and the opportunity to develop to their fullest potentials. To learn more about Aleh and to donate, please visit ALEH.org.

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