Yorai Nir-Gross, now 20 years old, was diagnosed at age 2 ½ as being on the autism spectrum.The oldest of five children, Yorai began to speak at age 4 ½. Although he wasable to attend a regular kindergarten and elementary school with the help of afull-time aid, Yorai experienced many difficulties, especially in social interactions.In junior high school Yorai began to study in a special education class with otherspecial needs students. It was here that he first participated in Etgarim’s outdoortherapy program of cable climbing.Yorai says that the two years in the Etgarim program made a huge difference inhis life. He tells it in his own words:The Etgarim counselors taught us that we are able to overcome difficulties. Tosee them as a challenge, and not a reason to give up. For me it was a nderfulexperience, filled with a lot of satisfaction. My success in the ogram gave me a lot of confidence and boosted my self-image. And this is still with me today.
As I gained confidence I knew that I wanted to study in a regular high school. I believed in my ability to fit in and to succeed in my studies, and to do a full matriculation degree. I insisted, and eventually I convinced my parents.
I entered high school, majoring in communications. I continued to develop my life skills, learning to organize my time, set priorities, and interact with others in school, the family and Scouts. It hasn’t been easy for me and my parents, since in addition to the regular problems of adolescence we have had to deal with my special challenges. For my final project in communications I decided to film an ad on the subject that is closest to my heart: Understanding people with special needs. I had very good memories from my Etgarim activities and I wanted to learn more about the subject. I wanted to raise awareness of people with special needs, to show that it is not difficult to help us and to understand us. We have special characteristics, but we have feelings, desires and hopes like everyone else. We are part of the whole.
I plan to volunteer to join the army and to study in the university. I hope, like every other 19 year old, that I’ll be able to fulfill my dreams.”