A couple of weeks ago, my family and I spent five amazing days at Tikvah Family Camp at Ramah in the Poconos, connecting with other families who have children with a range of special needs and enjoying camp life. During the mornings, children are paired with “Chavereem” who lead them in sports, art, swimming and other activities while parents get time to themselves. One of my highlights from this year’s camp was when I met up with my 11-year-old son, George, who has autism, and his lovely Chavera Davida at lunch. “George LOVED cooking!” Davida exclaimed. “He was so focused and into it. He did a great job.”
I smiled. George and I have been cooking together since he was four, when a cognitive-behavioral therapist recommended cooking as a way for us to engage in back and forth sharing and connecting. I thought she was crazy; at that time, George’s behavior was so hyper that he might only focus on a preferred activity for a minute at a time.
On Tuesday night, August 26, the "spiritual pre-season," leading up to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, began. We celebrated the first day of Elul, the Hebrew month during which Jews traditionally examine their behavior and contemplated self-improvement.
The New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities has mounted an "I Am Able"? campaign to document and celebrate the abilities of the individuals that the office serves. People with disabilities are encouraged to submit pictures and share accomplishments in their own words.
Editor's Note: In July, the Ruderman Family Foundation awarded five prizes to agencies across the world that are making the Jewish community into a more inclusive one. The New Normal will profile each of these amazing agencies over the next month. Click here to readprevious profiles.
Bar-Ilan University's Empowerment ("Otzmot") Program is among five international winners (and the only Israeli winner) of the third annual Ruderman Prize in Inclusion, honoring organizations worldwide that operate innovative programs and provide services that foster the full inclusion of people with disabilities in their local Jewish community.