Posted: Wed, 05/14/2014 - 07:00 | The New Normal

Editor's Note: Jonah Selber's experience is an inspiring story -- he has received the vocational and housing support that he needed to succeed. This feature is the start of a monthly series in which "The New Normal" will share about a person living successfully in a different kind of housing model for people with disabilities.

Jonah Selber, who was born with a developmental disability, is a longtime, successful employee of Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals in Philadelphia where he serves as an office assistant in the Information Systems Department. He loves his job and never takes it for granted. Unlike 70 percent of working age Americans with disabilities who are out of the workforce, Jonah has been working for 17 years delivering important business documents and greeting customers in the Information Systems service center at one of the nation’s top hospitals.

Posted: Thu, 05/08/2014 - 07:44 | The New Normal

Editor's Note: In honor of Yom Ha'atzmaut, which fell last week, we are sharing this blog about LOTEM, an innovative program in Israel that organizes outings for people with special needs on nature reserves through the country.

If I had any doubt about the importance of my work as a soldier guide with LOTEM- Making Nature Accessible, yesterday it totally vanished.

It all began when I got on the bus as I do every day when I am guiding, though what awaited me was a surprise. When my face was revealed to the students they began to call out, "You were with us last year," and "I know you" and "Do you remember that we were in the Judean Desert?" The students indeed were not mistaken! One year ago I guided the same group from Shafririm A. School for teenagers with intellectual challenges in the Judean Desert on a two-day hike.

Posted: Tue, 05/06/2014 - 07:57 | The New Normal

On Sunday May 4 and Monday May 5, over 120 Jewish educators in day and supplementary schools came together with special educators and professionals working in inclusion issues in Newtown, MA for Hebrew College’s sixth annual GISHA conference. (Gisha means "good ideas" in Hebrew.)

Posted: Tue, 05/06/2014 - 06:44 | The New Normal

Editor's Note: Last month, The New Normal featured Inclusion advocate Shelley Cohen's perspective on a new Jewish day school for children with learning disabilities opening in Manhattan next fall. Now, Dr. Yoni Schwab (Assistant Head of School) responds with his perspective on the Shefa School.

This fall, the Shefa School will open in the new Lincoln Square Synagogue building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. As a new, stand-alone, pluralistic Jewish day school for children with language-based learning disabilities in kindergarten through eighth grade, it will provide expert, immersive instruction to help students overcome dyslexia and other learning challenges that interfere with reading and writing. We have seen significant demand for such a school, with children quickly enrolling from throughout the New York area and from across the spectrum of Jewish practice and engagement.

Posted: Wed, 04/30/2014 - 07:11 | The New Normal

Autism Awareness Month is over, and at “The New Normal” we’re proud that we could bring you different voices from the spectrum, including My Experience: Autism and Judaism, Autism and Vacations, Can Autism Acceptance and Recovery Coexist? and Aspergers-Friendly Seder. We will continue to cover issues related to autism and the Jewish community throughout the year and wanted to close out the month with a round-up of some of our favorite autism websites. Please share your favorite autism-related websites and blogs in the comments below. Ours include:

Posted: Tue, 04/29/2014 - 13:21 | The New Normal

Passover has long been a challenging time of year for our family. Last year, in a piece about difficulties our family has attending seder, I wrote this:
Each year we hope that it will be better. That a year of further maturation and therapies will make it easier on Ben. And, therefore, for me too.

This year, however, we decided that hoping was not enough.