For my dissertation research, I have focused on studying Jewish parents of children with and without autism. During these interviews, many parents of children without autism discussed the importance of taking their child to services so that he or she could experience a Jewish environment. Parents of children with autism talked about how they often felt distressed when attending services with their child.
Recent statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that as many as one in six may have one or more developmental disabilities or other developmental delays. This is a daunting phenomenon, but for the Jewish community, it is also an opportunity, both in the context of Jewish values and the continuity of our faith, to welcome those who have been marginalized back into our community. We must dedicate ourselves to a continuous effort to shift our thinking to ensure we recognize, appreciate, and invite individuals with disabilities and their families into the mosaic that makes up today’s Jewish world.
Have you ever seen the 1951 animated Disney film Alice in Wonderland? It’s my favorite Disney movie; according to my mother, I used to quote it all of the time as a kid, and wore out the VHS tape from so many repeat watches. One moment I relate to now, as an adult, is when Alice admits to herself that she always gives herself “very good advice… But I very seldom follow it.” I know how you feel, Alice. I have, at this point, acquired something of a reputation as a go-to person when it comes to topics related to romance, sex, and dating for autistic people.
In this column, special education lawyer and advocate Regina Skyer will address reader’s questions and concerns regarding their child’s special education needs, as well as the services, programs and entitlements available within New York City. She asks readers to send their questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on how the column works, click here.