Michael Zarchin was born in Tel Aviv several years after the establishment of the State of Israel. From a very young age, he exhibited difficulties in movement and in acquiring basic learning skills. As early as kindergarten, he struggled with acquiring fine motor skills and tended to ignore colors, shapes and images in a way uncharacteristic of his age. At the same time, his well-developed social skills earned him a high social status. Thus, from a young age, he suffered from a significant gap between his high level of intelligence and his low scholastic level.
Doctors and learning-disability experts who examined Michael offered various assessments as to the root of his problem, though none could identify its exact source. Michael’s mother, however, with remarkable perseverance, followed every possible lead in order to help her son. Thus, when Michael was six years old, over fifty years ago, she flew with him to England for a consultation with Dr. O’neil, a world-renowned expert in learning disabilities. Dr. O’neil examined Michael and determined that he suffered from dyslexia. Although there was no known treatment for the disability then, he urged Michael’s mother to keep track of developments in the field. The study of dyslexia was, at that time, a new field, and understanding of it was based on limited information and only a few academic studies.
During the following years, Michael’s parents continued to search for solutions to his problem, though they were largely unsuccessful. The first major breakthrough occurred when they heard of Dr. Gerald Getman, an American pioneer in the field of developmental optics and the first to apply discoveries in that field to the area of learning disabilities. Thus, Michael, in 1970, at the age of sixteen, flew with his mother to the United States, to be diagnosed by Dr. Getman. Dr. Getman quickly perceived the unusual and complex gap between Michael’s high level of intelligence and his learning deficiency, and regarded their encounter as a unique opportunity to prove the effectiveness of his method. He referred Michael to Dr. Stanley Abelman of Philadelphia, who specialized in the practical application of his theories.
From their very first meeting, Dr. Abelman proved to Michael that, without a shadow of a doubt, he would indeed master reading. Michel, who had suffered numerous disappointments and failures in his life, was obviously skeptical. Dr. Abelman anticipated such a reaction, and worked with great intensity and with numerous techniques, to restore Michael’s confidence in himself. This proved to be a critical component in the success of the treatment. Session after session, Michael found his reading skills improving, until he realized that despite the disappointments he had previously experienced, he had now embarked upon a new path that would lead him to overcome his disablity.
Dr. Abelman’s goal was to improve Michaels ability to process information and visual perception and to promote the coordination between Michael’s seeing and thinking. Based upon the theory of development optics, he conjectured that Michael’s problem resulted from the mind’s information-processing center faulty interpretation of what his eyes physically perceived. Michael was unable to read because his thought processes failed to assign the proper meaning to each letter and word.
In order to conjoin sight and thought, and to cause thought to function correctly and thereby attribute to letters their proper meaning, Dr. Abelman applied a variety of therapeutic tools, the principle one being a combination of various learning skills, working on dexterity, and visual and verbal skills.
Throughout the treatment, Dr. Abelman careful kept Michael apace of his progress, talking with him about his challenges, aspirations, and feelings. He showed interest in matters close to Michael’s heart and incorporated them in the therapeutic process. In this way, their sessions took on the character of a friendly get-together, with a lot of humor, although the boundaries between therapist and patient were always maintained.
The treatment was conducted in English, since Dr. Abelman did not know Hebrew. Slowly, Michael found his reading skills improving, first, learning to distinguish between various letters, then, learning to combine letters into words, and words into sentences. A warm and personal relationship developed Dr. Abelman and Michael, with the latter anxiously awaiting their every meeting. After several months, Dr. Abelman announced to Michael that, from his perspective, the treatment had been successfully completed. Michael had learned to read English well, which consequently improved his reading of Hebrew, as well. The goal that Dr. Abelman had set for Michael had been reached.
When Dr. Getman received Dr. Abelman’s update about the successful treatment, he began to incorporate it in his professional and academic lectures throughout the United States. He saw in Michael’s proof that the method that he had developed would work even in the most difficult and complex cases of learning disabilities.
In the following years, during which Michael worked in senior management positions and conducted extensive business operations, he maintained his friendship with Dr. Abelman and deepened his knowledge and understanding of the method through which he had learned to read. Dr. Abelman, from his perspective, regarded Michael as a potential protégé, and encouraged him to become a therapist, in order to help both children and adults overcome their learning difficulties. He regarded Michael as a potential leader in the field, with a successful future ahead of him. About eighteen years ago, Michael finally felt that the time had arrived to apply his knowledge, and began to help others solve their learning difficulties.
Michael’s first patient was an Israeli stand-up comic named Ushi, who suffered from severe orientation problems. After several sessions with Michael, Ushi began to recognize and remember street names and directions. Other patients soon followed, each with a different problem at a different level of difficulty. Michael applied and adapted his method to each specific case with remarkable success. Children with reading difficulties began to read fluently, teenagers who were diagnosed with writing disabilities began to love expressing themselves through the written word. Similar results were received by individuals with math difficulties, attention deficit problems, and difficulties in reading comprehension.
When the late Professor Reuven Feuerstein – world-renowned psychologist and winner of the Israel Prize – heard about the method, he invited Michael to work at his institute. Michael served as a consultant there for several years, counseling both learning disability therapists as well as patients themselves. Experts, such as Dr. Yehudah El-Dor, Dr. Yoram Yuval and others are familiar with Michael’s method and well-aware of its amazing potential.
Michael continues to treat children at his clinics in Ramat Gan and Jerusalem, as well as disseminate his method through lectures, courses at teacher colleges, and more. The Zarchin Institute’s vision is to spread the principles of this system among educators, organizations and institutions in the fields of education and learning skills, and provide a viable solution for all who suffer from learning disabilities – children, adolescents and adults – enabling them to develop proper learning skills and enjoy equal opportunities for success.