Tag: Education

Tel Aviv University Launches the International Graduate School for Social Sciences

School manifests Israel’s leadership in many arenas related to the social sciences.

The Gershon H. Gordon Faculty of Social Sciences at Tel Aviv University, under the leadership of its Dean, Prof. Itai Sened, is launching a new initiative that targets the global arena: The International Graduate School of Social Sciences. The School will offer a range of MA programs in the English language for students from all over the world, and host leading international experts, researchers, and lecturers. Full activities will commence in October 2022, at the beginning of the 2022-23 academic year.

Program Jump-Started by Nobel Laureate 

The School’s first guest, who arrived this week, is Prof. Paul Romer from NYU, 2018 Nobel Prize Laureate in Economics, and one of the world’s most inspiring thinkers in his field. Prof. Romer is a staunch supporter of the new initiative and has agreed to lead the School’s excellent cohort of visiting scholars. During his current visit he conducted workshops for outstanding students and young faculty, delivered a lecture to the Friends of TAU, and give an interview to well-known Israeli journalist Guy Rolnik.

Dr. Ro’ee Levy from The Eitan Berglas School of Economics, who researches political economy and social media, on his meeting with Romer: “I am excited to meet a Nobel Laureate in Economics and hear his thoughts on burning economic issues. Prof. Romer won the Nobel Prize together with William Nordhaus for his research on economic growth, and explored how innovation contributes to long-term growth. While economists have already realized that entrepreneurship and knowledge contribute to economic growth, Romer explored the conditions that encourage more entrepreneurship. Instead of assuming that technological developments occur on their own at random, he modeled these developments as dependent on economic conditions. The obvious conclusion is that economic policy can encourage entrepreneurship and technological advancement and thus influence economic growth.”


Prof. Paul Romer is a staunch supporter of TAU’s new initiative

Israel – Much More than The Hi-Tech Nation

The International Graduate School of Social Sciences serves as an umbrella for the Faculty’s five existing international MA programs – Developing Countries (sustainable development), Migration Studies, Conflict Resolution and Mediation, Security and Diplomacy, and Cyber Politics and Government – which are annually attended by about 150 students, both international and Israeli. Five more programs will be added in coming years, including Climate, Trauma, and Public Health, bringing the number of students to approximately 300 annually. Upon graduation, most alumni will join international organizations and Non-Profit Organizations active in their fields of study.

Sened believes that the new School, in its very essence, manifests Israel’s leadership in many arenas related to the social sciences. “Everyone talks about the hi-tech nation,” he says, “but we have a great deal more to offer. Israel has accumulated immense knowledge and experience in many non-technological areas, and Israeli expertise is in great demand all over the world. Our School’s programs will address many of these disciplines, making the vast knowledge amassed here at Tel Aviv University, and throughout the state of Israel, accessible to the entire world.”

This claim is corroborated by most of the School’s current and future programs: Public Health (in collaboration with TAU’s Medical School) – a field in which Israel’s critical edge was revealed during the recent pandemic; Sustainable Development (with an emphasis on developing nations) and Climate Change – where Israel’s  geographical location on the edge of the desert has generated considerable expertise; Trauma  (collaboration with  the Schools of Psychology and Social Work), Conflict Resolution and Security and Diplomacy – in which our country’s constant state of conflict has inevitably bred extensive experience; Migration Studies – whose complex issues are extensively explored in our multicultural nation of immigrants; Cyber Politics and Government (digital governance), relying on Israel’s technological prominence; and more.

International Hub for the Exchange of Ideas

The School’s wealth of MA programs will be complemented by a unique track to the PhD: 10 outstanding undergraduates, completing their BA at the Faculty of Social Sciences, will be admitted to an accelerated PhD program, which includes a scholarship for the entire period of studies, a co-supervisor from a leading university abroad, and a year of studies at the supervisor’s institution.

Academic faculty will benefit from the dynamic two-way flow of scholars generated by the School, with Israeli lecturers and researchers visiting top institutions all over the world, and their colleagues from other countries (20-30 every year, 2-3 at any given time), coming to TAU to conduct research and teach in the various international programs.


At present, the Faculty of Social Sciences is discussing a range of student exchange agreements with several world-leading academic institutions, including: the Johns Hopkins University branch in Bologna, Northwestern University in Illinois, Science-Po in Paris, and EUI (European University Institute) in Venice.


“The new International Graduate School of Social Science reflects the vision of the President of TAU,” notes Sened. “Namely, enhancing TAU’s visibility and leadership in the international arena. On the one hand, we attract students from all over the world, who wish to benefit from the knowledge accumulated here in Israel, and specifically at TAU, in the social sciences. On the other, we essentially ‘bring the world’ to Israeli students and faculty – in the form of world-class lecturers, researchers, and supervisors from around the globe. In this way, we reduce the regrettable ‘brain drain’ and encourage our excellent students and researchers to stay here with us. Ultimately, thanks to its dynamic entrepreneurial spirit, the School will become an international hub for the exchange of ideas and growth of knowledge in many areas of the social sciences that are at the heart of the human experience and critical challenges of our times.”


“Everyone talks about the hi-tech nation, but we have a great deal more to offer.” – Prof. Itai Sened, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences

TAU and Goethe University Establish Joint Center for Interfaith Studies

First-of-its-kind academic collaboration between Israel and Germany.

Academic collaboration between Israel and Germany is growing, and for the first time, Tel Aviv University in Israel and Goethe University in Frankfurt will establish a joint center. With a focus on interfaith studies, the center will promote research on religion, in particular the monotheistic faiths – a field in which both institutions specialize. The two universities will conduct joint research, hold academic conferences, and train students and researchers in this field.

The agreement for launching the new center was signed during a dedicated “Germany Week” organized at TAU by TAU International and the Student Union of Tel Aviv University, the first is a series of international events led by TAU International and the TAU Student Union, promoting internationality and a global campus by focusing on the cultures of different countries and bringing them to the TAU community.

The signing was attended by the German Ambassador to Israel Susanne Wasum-Rainer, TAU President Prof. Ariel Porat, and the President of Goethe University, Prof. Enrico Schleiff.

“Tel Aviv university has a wide network of collaboration with German universities, more than with any other country in Europe,” says Prof. Milette Shamir, TAU’s VP in charge of international academic collaboration. 

“This collaboration includes hundreds of joint research projects as well as hundreds of German students who come to our campus each year. The joint center expands this collaboration in an important new direction and tightens our existing partnership with Goethe University Frankfurt, one of the leading universities in Germany. We hope that in the near future the two universities will expand collaboration to several other areas of common strength.”


German TAU Students celebrating the International “Germany Week” on Tel Aviv University campus (Photo: Raphael Ben-Menashe)

The Start of an Even Closer Cooperation

Prof. Menachem Fisch, who heads the initiative at TAU says, “I am thrilled to be part of the establishment of a unique, first-of-its-kind center for the study of the monotheistic faiths and their mutual development. This is a worthy initiative, and one more building block in the academic collaboration between the two countries.”

Prof. Enrico Schleiff, President of Goethe University notes that, ”What we are agreeing upon today is, as far as I am aware, unprecedented – at least in the humanities in Germany.” 

“It is not merely a formal cooperation between a German and an Israeli university, but rather the development of a highly visible, joint institutionalized international research center. The center is cross-departmental on both sides and working in an area of study that is most relevant to the German and the Israeli society alike: the history of and the present challenges in religious diversity, difference and conflict in pluralistic societies. It will focus on questions regarding inter-religious dialogue, religious fundamentalism and conflict, but also on the rich cultural heritage and the potential inherent in religious traditions. This center is the start of an even closer cooperation.”

Susanne Wasum-Rainer, Germany’s Ambassador to Israel says, “Academic exchange and cooperation is not only a constitutive pillar of German-Israeli relations. It is also a contribution to strengthening research and scientific progress as a global endeavor, in science as well as in the humanities. By declaring their will to establish a joint Center for the Study of Religious and Interreligious Dynamics, the Goethe University Frankfurt am Main and the Tel Aviv University address one of the urgent questions of our time, the role of religious communities in a changing and conflictual world.

“This MOU marks a new milestone in the special relationship between the two universities and is also another bridge of understanding between Frankfurt and Tel Aviv. The new center will for sure contribute to a better inter-religious dialogue from different angles and perspectives,” concludes Uwe Becker, President of the German Friends Association of Tel Aviv University

Diamonds in the Rough

Maximizing the potential of TAU students on the autism spectrum.

Giving a presentation in front of a class can be daunting for any university student. For someone with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it can be terrifying. Routine study tasks like this can make higher education an unattainable dream for most people with ASD, which reduces the ability to connect with people. To help, TAU established Yahalom (“Diamond”), a comprehensive program that supports high-functioning ASD students from the moment they enroll at TAU through to graduation. “Today we know that ASD does not necessarily affect a person’s academic abilities,” says Alberto Meschiany, Head of the Psychological Services Unit at the Dean of Students Office, which runs the Yahalom program. “We support ASD students in whatever they need help with—primarily enhancing their interpersonal communication skills and ability to independently navigate the complexities of campus life.” Yahalom was launched in October 2017 with 10 students. Today it has 46—an almost fivefold increase in three years. “Ultimately, we aim to substantially boost these students’ independence and self-confidence, ensure they complete their degree, and broaden the range of options open to them once they enter the employment market,” explains Meschiany.

Mentors: Heart of the program

Yahalom is run by a dedicated coordinator who gets to know each of the ASD students and also recruits and trains volunteer TAU students as mentors. The goal is to ensure that the mentors know what to expect and how to communicate with ASD people, reduce their anxiety, help with their dealings vis-à-vis the staff and lecturers, accompany them to classes, and meet whatever other day-to-day needs may arise during the academic year. Demand among students wishing to be mentors is high, says Meschiany. “Right now, we can only give the mentors token scholarships, but we would love to give them larger ones. This is our biggest funding need,” he adds. Mentors help in myriad ways. For example, Yahalom heard about an ASD student who had been unnecessarily buying expensive textbooks for almost two years because he didn’t know how to make photocopies at the library and was too embarrassed to ask for help. He was immediately assigned a mentor who now helps him with these types of issues. Many ASD students have asked their mentors for advice on how to tell their classmates about their condition and the difficulties they face.

Personal ties reduce stress

Efrat Gilboa, a third-year student of Psychology and Law at TAU, mentors two ASD students. “I’ve always enjoyed volunteering and helping others, and used to work with special needs children. I thought that Yahalom could be an amazing opportunity for me not only to help autistic people integrate into the University, but to try to see the world through their eyes,” she says. “As a Yahalom mentor, my main job is to help the students cope with their study load, better manage their time, and help them flourish,” she explains. “But now we have a real friendship. My students can—and do—contact me whenever they feel like it, whether it’s to ask me a question or show me something interesting that they saw on their way to the campus.” “It’s a real privilege and fantastic experience to be able to mentor these students. They are among some of the best people I’ve had the opportunity to meet,” says Gilboa. “Since I began mentoring them half a year ago, I can see that my students are now less stressed and anxious and are better at managing their time.”  

An interdisciplinary approach

Along with providing opportunities for ASD students, TAU is pursuing autism research from diverse perspectives. “Together with other neurodevelopmental disorders, autism needs to be addressed by academics from multiple areas—neuroscientists, geneticists, psychologists, cell biologists, speech therapists and social workers—alongside practicing pediatricians, neurologists and psychiatrists,” says Prof. Karen Avraham, Vice Dean at TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine. “This is why TAU, with its inherently interdisciplinary research culture and strong ties with hospitals, is ideally positioned to bring about influential discoveries in the field—and why it has made autism research a strategic priority.” One such researcher is cognitive neuropsychologist Prof. Lilach Shalev of the Jaime and Joan Constantiner School of Education who heads the Attention Lab, affiliated with the Sagol School of Neuroscience. She develops novel training programs aimed at improving academic performance of learners from kindergarten to university students, and assesses their outcomes using neuropsychological, eye-tracking, brain-imaging and psychological measures. Her main work centers on the Computerized Progressive Attention Training Program (CPAT) that she pioneered for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in 2007; it is now implemented in several countries. Several years ago, Prof. Shalev expanded her research focus to include autism. “Our system was shown to work with great results among autistic people, also for their behavioral and communication difficulties, and we were very surprised,” she explains. These findings might also be relevant for university students on the autistic spectrum. Read about  how TAU alumna, Noga Keinan, promotes the integration of ASD students in higher education. Meschiany concludes: “The tailored support we offer Yahalom participants helps to level the playing field relative to their peers. These are very intelligent students with a high capacity to learn. Our job is to help them overcome their social difficulties and fulfill their potential.” By Ruti Ziv Featured image: Efrat Gilboa mentors two ASD students

“Stay Close to Them, but Avoid Clinging to Them”

TAU professor and early childhood expert on how to help children feel secure in times of unrest.

During difficult and stressful times, children are particularly reliant on adult presence and support. They need our help to make sense of everything, and to restore their sense of security. In light of the current unrest here in Israel, we asked Prof. Dorit Aram, from TAU’s The Jaime and Joan Constantiner School of Education and whose area of expertise is adult-child interactions and their implications for early development, what we can do to be there for our children in the best way possible during these testing times. She had several practical tips to share with us all:

How do we explain the current crisis to our children?

Prof. Aram: “With children that are younger than 3 years old, there’s no need to explain the overall security situation. It is better to focus on what is going on right here, in the moment. With children aged 3-5, you can start to explain that we are engaged in a fight with a country called Gaza. That’s enough. If your child asks why, you can say that we and the Gazans do not agree on where the boarders of our countries should be. They would like to get more of our country and we do not want that to happen. It is like when you want something from your friend and she doesn’t want to give it to you. So you argue.” “For children aged 5-7, you can add in some historical context and explain that there’s a conflict going on between two peoples about territory. Both those peoples want the same thing, and they need to reach a conclusion, but right now they are stuck and they deal by shooting at each other. For the Hebrew readers among you, there’s a book called “אוזו ומוזו מכפר קאקארוזו” which can be read for the child, but really any good children’s book on conflict between neighbors can be read for the child.” “In my experience, many parents shy away from talking about the political conflict with their children, but with children from age 5 it is actually good idea to discuss the topic. Because the children observe what’s going on, they are aware. Getting answers can ease their minds. If their parents won’t discuss it, the children will fill the gap with fear and erroneous ideas based on things they overhear. Just be careful not to monsterfy the other side. And do not let them watch the scary news on TV.”

What do we tell our children when they ask why they cannot be in kindergarten during the days?

“Explain that there may be missiles, and that right now the kindergarten teachers are not prepared or able to bring all the children to the shelter. So the children need to stay home for now. But let them know that you hope that it will end soon, so they can return to kindergarten and their friends. Tell them the truth! It is also very important to reassure them that we have the defense forces to protect us. And to remind them that when they are in the shelter, they are safe. And we, the parents, are here for them.”

How do we explain the sirens?

“You can tell children above 3 that, just like there’s Fireman Sam, we also have the defense forces to protect us. And there’s the Iron Dome. Explain to them that the sirens let us know that a missile has now left Gaza and is headed our way, so we need to quickly go to the shelter. The Iron Dome is there to stop the missiles, but we still make sure to go to the shelters where we are completely safe. “

How do we calm our children down if they are anxious?

“Parents as partners need to agree on the logistics of things and stay united and calm in front of the children. Stay close to them, but avoid clinging to them. You need to be calming them down and not the other way around. But be nice to yourself and conscious of your own needs. Speak with other adults if you are feeling anxious and need to talk. These are difficult times for everyone, so make sure that you take care of yourself. Hug your children and spend time with them. Think of things to do that tend to make them calmer – you can read to them, distract them somehow, practice some breathing techniques together (just counting breaths can be powerful), tickle them a bit or crack some jokes (laughter is very soothing), and make the shelter a nice place to hang out in – keep their favorite toys, dolls or teddy bears there. Give them responsibilities, tasks they can take care of, and let them feel in control. Try to maintain your routines as a family, to the extent possible.”

Any questions we should ask our children?

“Some parents hear other parents speak of their children’s questions, and worry because their own children don’t ask questions and that maybe something could be wrong. That’s not a reason to ask, and you should rest assured that your child might, in fact, feel fine. No need to panic.”

How will this situation affect our children in the long run?

“If this situation lasts for only a few days and the parents, meanwhile, manage to ensure that their children have routines in place, then it should be fine. However, we do not know what will be. So, I would say that it depends on the children and their sensitivity and the actions of the parents.”

Show Me Your Playlist And I’ll Tell You Who You Are

Could you be inadvertently channeling your inner Beyonce or Eminem?

A new study shows that three songs from a playlist are enough to identify the person who chose the songs. Hence, companies like YouTube and Spotify can accumulate a great deal of information about their users based only on their musical preferences. The study was led by Dr. Ori Leshman of The Jaime and Joan Constantiner School of Education at Tel Aviv University and Dr. Ron Hirschprung of the Department of Management and Industrial Engineering at Ariel University. The study was published in the journal Telematics and Informatics. The study included about 150 young people (all undergraduate students), in 4 groups of about 35 people each. Participants were asked to identify group members based on only three songs from their favorite playlist. The variety of the students’ musical preferences was wide and very diverse, including, for example, both old and new Israeli music (from Sasha Argov to Kaveret, Zohar Argov, Omer Adam and Hanan Ben Ari), classic rock and pop (from the Beatles and Pink Floyd to Beyonce and Ariana Grande), Israeli and international hip hop (from Kendrick Lamar and Eminem to Hadag Nahash and Tuna) and more. The song choices were then analyzed according to a mathematical model developed by the scholars. The findings surprised even the researchers. The analysis of the data showed that the group members were able to identify the study participants according to their musical taste at a very high level of between 80-100%, even though the group members did not know each other well and had no prior knowledge of each other’s musical preferences. Dr. Leshman and Dr. Hirschprung explain: “Music can become a form of characterization, and even an identifier. It provides commercial companies like Google and Spotify with additional and more in-depth information about us as users of these platforms. In the digital world we live in today, these findings have far-reaching implications on privacy violations, especially since information about people can be inferred from a completely unexpected source, which is therefore lacking in protection against such violations. Visiting YouTube is perceived by the ordinary person as an innocuous act, but this study shows that it can reveal a lot about that person. On the other hand, this knowledge can be used as a bridge between people and perhaps in the future lead to the creation of new diagnostic methods and fascinating intervention programs that will make use of people’s favorite music.”

Parents show love less during COVID-19: TAU Study

Stress, crowded homes cause parents to “forget” to express love, at a time when children are in great need of parental affection.

A new study from Tel Aviv University found that during Israel’s first lockdown parents reported a significant decline in expressions of love for their young children (aged 3-5), compared to normal times. In addition, even though all members of the family were at home together, parents reported a significant decrease in parental leadership, and in setting rules and boundaries for their children.

The study, led by Prof. Dorit Aram, Head of the Early Childhood Research Laboratory at TAU’s Constantiner School of Education, examined parents’ behavior toward toddlers in Israel during the first lockdown (March-April 2020), and compared it to their behavior in regular times. The study surveyed 522 parents who filled out questionnaires. The parental behavior test was based on the Parenting Pentagon Model, consisting of five principles: partnership between caretakers, humane leadership, expressing unconditional love, promoting independence and imposing rules.

Loving behavior of parents toward their children is defined as: Loving behaviors include physical expressions of love (hugs, kisses, etc.), verbal expressions of love, encouragement, patience and sensitivity, expressions of empathy, and time spent together. The researchers found a significant difference between normal times and the pandemic.

The researchers note that during the pandemic parents spent more time with their children compared to regular times. Possibly, they had less of a need to show their love verbally and physically, because they paid more attention to their children on a daily basis. In addition, the researchers believe that the stress experienced by the parents, the crowded homes and the many hours spent together may have caused parents to “forget” the need to express love for their children, at a time when the children were in great need of loving behavior from their parents.

“This finding is somewhat surprising and even disappointing,” says Prof. Aram. “At times of crisis and stress, young children need their parents more than ever. They need a hug and words of affection, and yet parents did not express their love as often, and parental leadership, discipline and rule-setting were weakened. I hope that parents will learn from our study…and strive to exhibit more beneficial parenting practices under stressful conditions.”

The research examined several behaviors:

Parental leadership: Behaviors exhibiting leadership demonstrate parents’ place as leaders of the family and role models for their children. This behavior is characterized by assuming responsibility, setting goals related to raising the child, planning parental behavior (organizing the family in response to the new situation, preparing for changes, etc.) The study found that the implementation of this important principle was lower compared to normal times. The researchers claim that the pandemic has weakened parental control, and assume that in the chaos surrounding it, parents lost some of their efficacy in making decisions and setting goals for the family.

Partnership between caretakers: Partnership behaviors include a division of labor between parents, mutual support, the ability to resolve conflicts with mutual respect, presenting a common front to the child, presence in meaningful events in the child’s life, and agreement about how the child should be brought up. It might have been expected that with both parents at home, the level of cooperation would be higher than usual. The study, however, found no difference between the implementation of this principle in regular times and during the pandemic.

Promotion of independence: This behavior includes encouraging the child to become independent and to perform tasks suitable to age and abilities, while providing assistance when necessary. The study found that parents did not use time spent together to present challenges that could further their children’s independence, and continued to behave “normally” in this respect. The researchers emphasize that Israeli parents tend to be protective in normal times as well.

Rule-setting: For optimal family dynamics, the parent must create for the child a structured framework of rules, and implement it with persistence and authority. The parents who participated in the study reported a lower level of implementation of this principle. The researchers assume that this was caused by the lack of routine, timetables and activities outside the home.

New Dual Degree Program – TAU & Columbia University

Cutting-Edge Education Meets Non-Stop Discovery

Tel Aviv University is proud to announce its newly launched new Dual Degree Program with Columbia University.

As part of the Dual Degree Program, students will begin their college education in one of six academic programs at Tel Aviv University, and have the opportunity to immerse themselves in two elite research universities whose academic, social, and cultural environments allow students to take advantage of the best that both cities have to offer.

The Program, which will welcome its inaugural class in the fall of 2020, transcends traditional study abroad opportunities by providing the opportunity to pursue a rigorous undergraduate liberal arts education spanning two continents. Upon completion of the four-year program, graduates earn two bachelor’s degrees, one from each institution.

The program joins the Columbia University School of General Studies’ current portfolio of highly regarded international undergraduate dual and joint degree programs with Sciences Po, Trinity College Dublin, City University of Hong Kong, and List College of the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS). Created in 1954, the joint program with JTS was the first program of its kind to be established at the School of General Studies.

For any information such as admissions, costs & curriculum please visit the joint dual degree website.

Siblings of children with intellectual disabilities better at empathy, teaching

TAU research suggests positive impact of relationships between children and their siblings with intellectual disabilities

The sibling relationship is the longest most people will enjoy in their lifetimes and is central to the everyday lives of children. A new Tel Aviv University and University of Haifa study finds that relationships between children and their siblings with intellectual disabilities are more positive than those between typically developing siblings. The research examines the relationships of typically developing children with siblings with and without intellectual disabilities through artwork and questionnaires. It was conducted by Prof. Anat Zaidman-Zait of the Department of School Counseling and Special Education at TAU’s Constantiner School of Education and Dr. Dafna Regev and Miri Yechezkiely of the University of Haifa’s Graduate School of Creative Art Therapies. The study was recently published in Research in Developmental Disabilities. “Having a child with a disability in a family places unique demands on all family members, including typically developing siblings,” Prof. Zaidman-Zait explains. “Although challenges exist, they are often accompanied by both short- and long-term positive contributions.

More empathy, less fighting

“Through our research, we found that relationships among children with siblings with intellectual disabilities were even more supportive than those among typically developed siblings. Specifically, we found that children with siblings with intellectual disabilities scored higher on empathy, teaching and closeness and scored lower on conflict and rivalry than those with typically developing siblings.” Until now, research on how having a sibling with a developmental disability affects children’s social-emotional and behavioral outcomes generated mixed findings. At times, the findings suggested that having a sibling with developmental disabilities led to greater variability in typically developing children’s behavior and adjustment. “But these studies did little to tap into the inner worlds of children, which really can only be accessed through self-expression in the form of art or self-reporting, independent of parental intervention, which is the route we took in our study,” Prof. Zaidman-Zait says.

Measuring relationships through art

The scientists assessed some 60 children aged 8-11, half with typically developing siblings, half with intellectually disabled siblings, through drawings and a questionnaire about their relationships with their siblings. Mothers of both sets of siblings were also asked to answer a questionnaire about their children’s sibling relationship quality. “We drew on the basic assumption that artistic creation allows internal content to be expressed visually and that children’s self-reports have special added value in studies measuring sibling relationship qualities, especially in areas where parents might have less insight,” Prof. Zaidman-Zait says. Both sets of typically developing children, with and without siblings with intellectual disabilities, were asked to draw themselves and their siblings. Licensed art therapists then used several set criteria to “score” the illustrations: the physical distance between the figures; the presence or absence of a parent in the illustration; the amount of detail invested in either the self-portrait or the sibling representation; and the amount of support given to a sibling in the picture. The children were then asked to complete the Sibling Relationship Questionnaire, which assessed the feelings of closeness, dominance, conflict and rivalry they felt for their siblings. Reviewing the children’s illustrations and questionnaires, as well as the questionnaires completed by the children’s mothers, the researchers found that the children with siblings with intellectual disabilities scored significantly higher on empathy, teaching and closeness in their sibling relationship and scored lower on conflict and rivalry in the relationships than those with typically developing siblings. “Our study makes a valuable contribution to the literature by using an art-based data gathering task to shed new light on the unique aspects of the relationships of children with siblings with intellectual disabilities that are not revealed in verbal reports,” Prof. Zaidman-Zait concludes. “We can argue that having a family member with a disability makes the rest of the family, including typically developing children, more attentive to the needs of others.” The researchers hope their study, supported by The Shalem Foundation in Israel, will serve as a basis for further research into art-based tools that elicit and document the subjective experience of children.


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