Lisa Friedman's blog

For Kids With Special Needs Who Crave Structure, Tips For Some Summer Fun

Summer is upon us. Thoughts have turned from desks to lounge chairs, from carpools to lazy afternoons by the pool and from early morning alarms to long evenings spent making s’mores and catching fireflies. It’s typical to believe that all families look forward to things like summer vacation, but assumptions like these can be a challenge. Children with a variety of learning and other disabilities thrive on the structure and routine of the academic year, making summer vacation, with its large stretches of unscheduled time, overwhelming for both children and their parents. Add to this concern about the loss of academic skills acquired throughout the year (commonly referred to as “summer slide”) and these few months might seem daunting.

Summer Family Fun. Getty Images

Special Needs Or Disabilities? What’s The Difference?

Nearly sixteen years ago my synagogue hired me as our Religious School’s Special Needs Consultant. Within a year that title changed to Special Needs Coordinator. A subtle shift, but one that we believe demonstrated our commitment to the permanence of our program.  Today I serve as a full-time Education Director with oversight of our inclusion efforts. But if anyone asks me what I do for a living, my reply is typically that I am a Jewish Educator and a Jewish Inclusion Expert.

Have We Made Advances? Courtesy of Lisa Friedman

Blogging Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month - #JDAIMblogs

Editor's Note: Next week begins Jewish Disability Awareness & Inclusion Month--a time when the Jewish community puts extra focus on the inclusion of people with disabilities. At "The New Normal," we know that this is a 365-day effort and appreciate all of our readers and contributors giving attention to this issue. We are sharing this blog from contributor Lisa Friedman and will be featuring a series of blogs about disability and language through the month.

For those of you who have been following this event for a few years or more, you will note that the acronym has changed. Since 2009, Jewish Disability Awareness Month has taken place each February with the tagline “From Awareness to Inclusion”. In keeping with that trend, the various organizers of this annual event have added “I” for inclusion right into the title: Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month.

#JDAIM16 Blogs. Courtesy of Lisa Friedman

Three Ways Teachers Can Make Parents Their Partners

Editor's Note: Thanks to Lisa Friedman and Matan for sharing this blog, which originally appeared on the Matan web site.

In our Matan Institutes we work with Jewish Educators to guide them in including children of all abilities in Jewish education, offering concrete teaching tools for reaching every student and empowering them to make lasting change in their schools and communities. One of the things we discuss at length is the critical need for strong partnerships between parents and the school.

Educators and classroom teachers can often get “stuck” on the various ways that parents challenge them and they typically want specific pointers on how to handle difficult conversations with parents.

Parents As Our Partners. Courtesy Of Matan

Terrific Summer Reading List To Teach Kids & Teens About Disabilities

If you are anything like me, you eagerly await the summer months to finally make a sizable dent in that pile of books adorning your nightstand. My summer reading list typically includes a mix of young adult novels, professional books and a healthy handful of books for fun.

Lisa Friedman

Creating An Inclusive Chanukah Program In Our School

As an educator in a fully inclusive supplemental religious school, which is part of a fully inclusive Reform congregation, one of the questions I am most often asked is “How do you do it?” I am eager to share my thoughts and suggestions, especially if it means that other congregations will move toward greater inclusion. And yet, while I share and have written articles such as Ten Steps to Make Your Congregation More Inclusive, I’d be lying if I said that you’d be all set if you just read and followed the exact steps that my congregation followed. You can’t just wrap our process up with a bow, plunk it down into your community and say, “OK, now we are inclusive.”

That is because inclusion is not a program.

At Beth-El's Chanukah Program. Courtesy of Lisa Friedman

Elul Is A Time To Forgive Yourself, Too

If you read a lot of blogs and articles, particularly those focused on disability inclusion, it may seem like there a lot of “shoulds." This is how you should treat people with disabilities; this is how you should speak about people with disabilities; this is how you should include people with disabilities.

Maybe you read these “shoulds” and they spark within you an idea of a possibility and you are inspired to make a change. Or maybe you read them and find yourself feeling guilty.

Lisa Friedman

Who's Your Aaron? Finding A Community of Support

Editor's Note: This blog post originally appeared on the URJ Sci-Tech Blog.

Last week I had the good fortune of serving as a part of the pioneer faculty for the URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy. I’m not quite sure where to begin in describing all of the significant moments that I observed and experienced there, so if you have not been following their inaugural season on the blog, I urge you to catch up!

At Sci-Tech they have seamlessly blended science and technology with living Jewishly. Here, campers are deeply exploring, creating, and discovering while experiencing the true magic of Jewish camp. It is a specialty camp like no other, and I have no doubt that many of these children would not have otherwise had a Jewish summer experience. Point in case, on Shabbat morning I taught two of the youngest campers how we honor the Torah during hakafah (Torah procession) as they had never participated in a Torah service before.

And, as is my nature, I enter into experiential learning spaces with an eye toward inclusion.

Campers at URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy. Courtesy of URJ

Can Autism Acceptance and Autism Recovery Coexist?

Editor's Note: As part of a dialogue about autism and our community during Autism Awareness Month, we are sharing Educator Lisa Friedman's blog about autism advocacy, acceptance and recovery. It was originally featured on Think Inclusive. Please share your comments below.

In January, I wrote a blog about a poet and self-advocate named Scott Lentine, who has autism. I continue to be impressed by self-advocates who use the power of their words to inspire others to greater levels of understanding. As a blogger, I can relate. I write to inspire, motivate and support others on the journey toward inclusion.

In learning about him, however, I began to grapple with the question of whether there's a tension between the concepts of autism acceptance and autism recovery, and now I'd like to share that question with the New Normal community.

Lisa Friedman

A Completely Unremarkable Story

A few weeks ago I attended our synagogue’s Kabbalat Shabbat service. This once-a-month service has an earlier start time than our traditional service and is followed by a congregational potluck dinner. The shorter service is ideal for many: Our youngest children who aren’t ready to be out past their bedtimes; teens who want to go out with friends later in the evening and adult members who don’t want to be out past their bedtimes after a full week of work. Our Kabbalat Shabbat is also a wonderful fit for an adult member of our congregation with developmental disabilities.

Lisa Friedman
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