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Posted: Mon, 10/12/2015 - 14:38 | The New Normal

JCCA’s Compass Project helps young people on the autism spectrum (or with other learning and developmental differences) make a successful transition from high school or college to the workplace and independent adulthood. Young adults on the autism ppectrum are often challenged by finding and keeping a job, learning to socialize and making friends. This summer, Compass placed many interns in jobs in a wide range fields such as retail, working with seniors and office work. Cara, a cheerful 17-year-old on the autism spectrum, was one of the interns.

Posted: Tue, 09/29/2015 - 17:25 | The New Normal

Last July, Rabbi Lynne Landsberg, Senior Disability Advisor for the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism was presented the first Thornburgh Family Award. Established by the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) this year during the 25th anniversary year of the ADA, the Thornburgh Family Award recognizes a religious leader who exemplifies the spirit of the ADA. The award is named after U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, who helped negotiate the ADA with Congress, and Ginny Thornburgh, a long-time advocate for people with disabilities nationally and globally who specializes in inclusion in religious communities. Dick and Ginny are the parents of a son, Peter, a man of faith, who has intellectual and physical disabilities.

Posted: Mon, 09/28/2015 - 20:12 | The New Normal

Editor's Note: Although the DSM-5 no longer uses Asperger's Syndrome as a classification, it is still used by many people with Asperger's, clinicians and community.

I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome when I was four years old and attended various special education programs since I was three. I am now a college student and understand how several decisions that I have made have been essential in helping me to overcome challenges, to become the person that I am today and to thrive. One of those decisions, my decision to become religiously observant, which I made around the time that I began high school, has been essential to my growth.

Posted: Mon, 09/21/2015 - 10:52 | The New Normal

Have you ever had a vivid dream more meaningful than real events? Such was my Yom Kippur dream over fifty years ago.

In the dream, I stood next to my father in Temple Beth El in Asbury Park, NJ. The congregation was reciting the Al Chet "For the sin which we have committed before You" Yom Kippur prayer.

As I recited each sin, I struck my chest lightly as I had been taught. My feet felt the floor slanting down towards the front row. The choir, supported by the organ, was holding one long continuous note. It was my most spiritual moment of the year.

Posted: Fri, 09/18/2015 - 06:05 | The New Normal

Editor's Note: As the school year begins, we are delighted to bring you these tips. Follow "The New Normal" through the year for a variety of perspectives on inclusion and Jewish education.

As someone with a disability myself, and who also knows what it means to parent a child with multiple disabilities, I’ve become an advocate for my children on so many fronts. Jewish education and involvement is no different. When it comes to disability and inclusion issues, despite good intentions, many Jewish institutions don’t even know what they don’t know. So it is up to people with disabilities, and the people who love them, to educate and advocate for people with disabilities in Jewish life. This is especially true in the context of enabling children with disabilities to have full access to Jewish education.

Posted: Thu, 09/10/2015 - 16:58 | The New Normal

Happy New Year! Many children and adults with disabilities use iPad technology for learning, play and communication. The iPad is also a wonderful tool to help people of all abilities prepare for and participate in the High Holidays. For example, an iPad can be used in the following ways:

1. Drawing and photo apps can be used to create personalized new year cards to share or print.

2. Interactive greetings can created on an app like TinyTap and shared with those who have the app, or screenshots can be printed and sent.