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Personal profile

Research interests

Research Interests:

1. Aging in a population of developmental disabilities.

2. Cognitive modifiability of individuals with intellectual disability (ID) throughout life span.

3. Information processing, memory and meta memory in an ID population
4. Emotional intelligence and social cognition of individuals with ID

5. Attitudes towards disability in various sectors of the Israeli society.

Profile:

 I am the head of new MA Program in Intellectual Disability (ID) offered by the School of Education, at Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel, which opened at the beginning of the 2010-2011 academic year. This program is based on the Normalization (Wolfensberger, 1977; 2003), Quality of Life (Schalock, 2000) and Center Person (Mounts, 2000) approaches and is guided by the vision that all individuals with disabilities will be valued members of their communities and society. Individuals with intellectual disability at all levels should be able to experience meaningful participation in all aspects of life. In the Special Education Department I teach undergraduate (seminar: Issues in Adolescents and Adulthood of Individuals with Disability), and graduate courses (Compensation Mechanisms of Adults with Disability; seminars on Learning throughout the Lifespan among Individuals with Disability, and Etiologies of ID – Educational and Neurological Innovations) .Research centers and chairs •Baker Research Center and Enhancement, and Inclusion of Children with ID.

I am the Head of the Baker Research Center and Enhancement, and Inclusion of Children with ID. The goal of this center (founded by Prof. Pnina S. Klein) is to promote the CAB (Cognition, Affect and Behavior) of infants and children with ID in order to include them in society in the short run and in the future. The center is comprised of three parts: •Infants with ID section: Promoting cognition, affect and behavior through the interaction between mothers and infants with ID.•Children with ID section: Promoting cognition, affect and behavior through pre-primary teachers and staff and children with ID.•Teaching academic skills: Promoting reading and math skills to children with Down Syndrome. Our teachers developed new program for imparting reading and math skills to children with ID aged 3-10. When applying this method, most children with ID achieve reading skills before school-age. We also developed an assessment tool for this program. •Inclusion with typical childern section: Children with typical development mediate stories through an electronic book to children with Down Syndrome.Research in preparation regarding Baker center:•Introducing the MISC principles in physiotherapy and it's influence on the linguistic and congitve skills of babies and infants with ID (Dorel Cohen, Varda Rosenthal, Hefziba Lifshitz).•The association between intelligence and acquisition of reading and mathematics skills among children with ID (Varda Rosenthal, Haya Aminadav, Hefziba Lifshitz)/Lois Alberto Machado Research Chair on Cognitive Modifiability and Human Development.I am also a Chair of the Lois Alberto Machado Research Chair on Cognitive Modifiability and Human Development. Within this framework, I intiated the Empwerment – Ozmot Project: Three stages of inclusion in the academic world of students with ID. This innovative project is the first in Israel in which students with ID stud for a BA degree. •Stage 1. Separate Model: Adapted Academic Courses Only for Adults with ID. Students with intellectual disability (ID) study six academic courses at the School of Education, Bar-Ilan University: Psychology, Self-Advocacy, Library and Computers. The lecturers are MA students in the ID program at the Special Education Department of the School of Education•Stage 2. Mixed/Hybrid Model of Adapted-Enrichment: Research Seminar with Typical Peers. Students with ID are included in a BA research seminar on Lifelong Learning of Individuals with Disability, and conduct a research together with regular students.•Stage 3. Fully Inclusive Studies Model, with Support: Six highly capable students with ID are fully integrated into five undergraduate courses as auditors. They passed the exams, performed class tasks and received 32 academic credits out of 64. This year, they will study English and Judaism at Bar-Ilan University and will complete 64 academic credits in two years. All the activities in the Empowerment - Ozmot project are theoretical and empirical based (see below, research area section C). Main Research InterestsA.Cognitive Trajectories (crystallized and fluid intelligence, memory and language) from adolescence to adulthood in the population with ID.B.Cognitive modifiability of individuals with ID throughout the lifecycle. C.Inclusion of students with ID in higher academic education: Scientific criteria of eligibility, achievements and strategies. D.Aging in the population with developmental disability.E.Attitudes towards disability in various sectors of Israeli society. Research area: Cognitive Trajectories and Cognitive Modifiability in a population with IDMy studies contribute to the field of ID by emphasizing the contribution of chronological age to the cognitive ability of individuals with ID beyond their mental age. Based on my research in the field of ID, I formulated the holistic Compensation Age Theory (CAT) framework (Lifshitz-Vahav, 2015). The proposed CAT framework supports the view that all human beings, even older people with ID, are capable of change and growth under appropriate environmental conditions and with continuous systematic intervention. Specifically, the CAT framework (see, Lifshitz-Vahav, 2015) posits four assertions: A.In later years, there is compensation for the developmental delays experienced by individuals with ID in their early years.B.Adults with ID can improve cognitively if exposed to structured cognitively-stimulating mediated interventions (see: Lifshitz & Rand, 1999; Lifshitz & Tzuriel, 2004; Lifshitz, Weiss, Tzuriel, & Tzemach, 2010; Lifshitz, Klein, & Fridel, 2011). C.The intelligence of adults with ID with and without Down syndrome can continue to grow into adulthood, even without mediation, by accumulating life experience and maturity (see: Chen, Lifhitz, & Vakil, 2017; Lifshitz, Bustan, & Shnitzer-Meirovitz, in press). D.The cognitive functioning of adults with ID is determined not only by endogenous variables (such as age, ID etiology, IQ level), but also by exogenous variables (such as lifestyle, leisure activities). According to the DSM-5 (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2013), deficits in intellectual functions of individuals with ID are expressed, inter alia, by deficits in academic learning and learning from experience (p. 33). I suggest a revision of these components. My studies (Chen, Lifshitz, & Vakil, 2017; Lifshitz & Bustan, under review) show that the intelligence of adults with ID with and without Down syndrome continues to grow from adolescence (17-2) to adulthood (20-45), without any intervention, which implies their ability to learn from experience. Research area: Inclusion of students with ID in higher academic education: Scientific criteria of eligibility, achievements and strategies In one study. The Contribution of Post-secondary Academic Courses on Crystallized and Fluid Tests of Adults with Intellectual Disability with/without Down Syndrome (Lifshitz, Nissim, Shnitzer-Meirovich, &Weiss), we examined the influence of postsecondary education (PSE) in the form of academic courses at the School of Education, Bar-Ilan University, on the cognitive performance of adults with ID. The sample included adults who participate in PSE (N = 21; CA = 26-59) and a control group of adults who participate in leisure activities, but not in PSE (N = 28; CA = 25.5-59). A crystallized and fluid battery was administered. Mixed regression with chronological age and etiology indicated that participation in PSE contributed to semantic fluency, homophones and the Raven matrices tests. The opposite model was insufficient. The findings support the Compensation Age Theory and the Cognitive Activity Theory for populations with ID with/without Down syndrome. Their cognitive performance is determined not only by age and etiology, but also by lifestyle, such as participation in cognitively-stimulating activities, and especially PSE. In this innovative study, Crystallized and Fluid Intelligence of University Students with Intellectual Disability who are Fully Integrated versus those who Studied in Adapted Enrichment Courses (Lifshitz, Verkuiln, Shnitzer-Meirovich, & Altman (2018), we examined whether crystallized and fluid intelligence and cognitive tests can serve as screening tests for determining the appropriate placement of students with ID for the adapted enrichment model versus the full inclusion model. We also examined the attitudes of students with ID in the inclusion model towards the program. The sample included 31 adults with ID: students with ID who were fully included (N = 10) and students with ID who participated in the adapted enrichment model (N = 21). Crystallized and fluid intelligence were examined (WAIS-III, Wechsler, 1997) and Hebrew abstract verbal tests (Glanz, 1989) were administered. Semi-structured interviews were conducted in order to examine the attitudes of students in the inclusion model towards the program. The ANOVAs indicated that the most prominent difference between the groups (the adapted enrichment group versus the full group) was in vocabulary, knowledge and working memory. ROC analysis, a fundamental tool for diagnostic test evaluation, was used to determine the students' eligibility for appropriate placement in the two models. Seven tests distinguished between the groups in terms of sensitivity and specificity. The interviews were analyzed according to three phases. The results indicate that students with ID are able to participate in undergraduate courses and achieve academic goals. The general IQ and idioms test seem to be best determiners for appropriate placement of students with ID to one of the two models. The included students with ID are motivated and self-determined in continuing in the program. In another study, Training Program Reveals Typical Brain Lateralization in Adults with Intellectual Disabilities with and without Down Syndrome (Mashal, Yankovitz, & Lifshitz, submitted), we examined, for the first time, brain lateralization using the divided visual field technique combined with a lexical decision task in both non-specific ID and Down syndrome compared to individuals with typical development (TD). A bilateral word presentation was also applied during the task to assess lexical inter-hemispheric communication. Twenty adults with non-specific ID, 14 adults with Down syndrome, and 30 adults with TD participated in the study. They performed a lexical decision task to highly familiar concrete words. Participants in both etiology groups were trained to perform the task prior to the experiment in an individually tailored program. The results showed that participants in both etiology groups performed the task as fast as the participants with TD. Adults with non-specific ID demonstrated faster and more accurate responses to words presented to the left than to the right hemisphere. Adults with Down syndrom showed more accurate responses to words presented to the left than to the right hemisphere. All three groups showed no significant difference between words presented to the left hemisphere and bilaterally. These findings provide evidence for typical brain lateralization in non-specific ID and Down syndrome.

Other studies are in preparation:Micro and Macro – Narratives of students with ID who are fully included in regular coursesEmotional intelligence and psychological capital among students with ID who participate in adapted academic enrichment and students with ID who are fully integrated in regular courses (with MA student Sana Jabli)Research area: Attitudes toward people with disabilities We are currently examining the attitudes of typical students toward inclusion of students with ID in regular curses (with Dr. Sigal Eden and Prof. Nurit.Prof). We examined the attitudes of various sectors in Israeli society toward integrating individuals with special needs into the community. This research includes student/teacher attitudes, comparisons between religious and secular students/teachers (jointly with Dr. R. Glaubman) and among religious ultraorthodox Jewish teachers. We also investigated the effect of an intervention program on the attitudes of Palestinian and Jewish teachers toward the inclusion of students with special needs. A qualitative article (co-authored with Dr. Glaubman) deals with the attitudes of the religious ultraorthodox Jewish community toward disability.

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, Bar-Ilan University

Jan 1989Jan 1995

Award Date: 1 Jan 1995

Master, Bar-Ilan University

Oct 1978Jun 1983

Award Date: 30 Jun 1983

Bachelor, Bar-Ilan University

Oct 1974Jun 1977

Award Date: 30 Jun 1977

Bar-Ilan University

Jan 1989Jan 1995

Bar-Ilan University

Oct 1978Jun 1983

Bachelor, Bar-Ilan University

Oct 1974Jun 1977

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