IDF recruits autistic volunteers
At behest of school for autistic teens, army will place 10 autistic soldiers in equipment bases
Zohar Pe'er, 21, was one of 10 young men to make history Monday by becoming the IDF's first autistic soldiers.
After a short recruitment ceremony, the new soldiers will head to various equipment bases to begin volunteering in their workshops.
"This is great," Zohar, who generally does not express much emotion, whispered as he prepared for the big day. His mother agreed, saying she was waiting expectantly to see her son in uniform.
In recent years the IDF has been enlisting into its ranks more and more diverse populations. A few months ago Yedioth Ahronoth reported that youths suffering from mental disorders can volunteer as well.
The most recent change in policy was brought about by Leah Rabin Middle School in Petah Tikva, which caters to autistic teens. The teachers, who believe their students have much to contribute to the state, appealed to the IDF with the suggestion.
The army decided to take the school up on its offer, and visited the school in order to learn of the special treatment needed for autistic teens. Meanwhile, parents toured the equipment bases at which sons are to serve.
"We learned up close how to communicate with autistic people and cooperate with them so that we can properly escort them through their army service," Captain Moran Cherney-Cohen, who chairs the Central Command's volunteer department.
"It's hard to know what Zohar is feeling ahead of the draft," says his mother, Efrat Etzion-Pe'er. "He doesn't show many signs, but I know he's waiting for the ceremony and wants to wear the uniform."
Meanwhile, Cherney-Cohen says the IDF is prepared to welcome its new recruits. "In addition to professional trainers who will accompany them during their first days, there will also be officers who underwent special training with them at all times," she explained.