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Posted: Thu, 12/18/2014 - 19:20 | The New Normal

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.

Posted: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 08:41 | The New Normal

It’s Chanukah, and we’re thinking in eights. Here are eight steps we all can take towards making a more inclusive community for people of all abilities all year long.

1. Use People-First Language: The words used to describe us have an impact on our lives. One important change that many of us can make is to shift how we talk about people with disabilities — doing so helps to shift our perspectives and see the whole person. Put the person before the disability. David is a child who has autism, not an autistic child. Click here for resources to help guide you in using people-first language.

Posted: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 07:12 | The New Normal

I became aware of this man – I’ll call him Joe – as he often sat across from me at the cafeteria-style eatery we both frequented. Around four decades older than I, he was no shrinking violet. If I had my daily paper spread out to the side of and behind my bagel, egg and coffee meal, he’d say something like, “Do you think I could have a couple inches of the table?” 

Rather than get annoyed, I liked his feistiness and I would quickly move my paper to give him as much room as possible.

Posted: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 19:49 | The New Normal

Chanukah is here! Have your children forgotten the blessings since last year? Do they need to brush up on their Chanukah skills? Do you need some activities for that Chanukah bash you are throwing? Look no further!

Below is a list of resources for everything you will need to make Chanukah accessible and fun, for everyone:

Posted: Thu, 12/11/2014 - 08:11 | The New Normal

Chanukah is a time to spend with friends and family lighting candles, eating delicious foods and exchanging gifts. When buying gifts for children and adolescents with autism always ask parents for gift suggestions. They can tell you about the child’s dietary restrictions, interests, and strengths and weaknesses. If you do not feel comfortable asking parents for holiday shopping advice, observe what toys, games, books, electronic appliances the child seems to enjoy. Parents will always appreciate having another one of their child’s favorite item readily available in case it is damaged. 

Posted: Thu, 12/04/2014 - 06:18 | The New Normal

Adam Rogers knows what it’s like to face challenges in school or in interactions with friends. As a younger kid, he experienced anger management issues. Now, as a high school sophomore, Adam helps others overcome their own set of learning challenges through the B’Tzelem: Jewish Teen Learning Companions at five Cleveland area congregations.

“My role in B’Tzelem is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done,” says Adam, who helps an 8th grader at Kol Chadash in Solon, OH.