Posted: Wed, 05/21/2014 - 07:06 | The New Normal

Editor's Note: In 2001, IDF Lt. Col. Ariel Almog was driving in his car near Sde Trumot junction in the Jordan Valley. Ahead of him was a bus, stopping to take on passengers. He averted a catastrophe, at great risk to himself, and during his convalescence he encountered many people with disabilities. The result is a groundbreaking IDF inclusion program.

Posted: Wed, 05/14/2014 - 15:56 | The New Normal

At times, the world of typical families can feel like a country club that doesn’t allow families like mine, which includes a child with special needs, to enter. And unlike Groucho Marx, who once famously said, “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member,” I desperately want my family to be accepted. Unfortunately, there is no button on the Little League website, or parks and recreation swim class sign-up, or after school club enrollment page that says, “Click here if your child has special needs.” The message I repeatedly get is, “Of course your child has a right to play baseball, take swim classes, pursue a hobby. Just not here.”

That’s a bitter pill for any parent to swallow.

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.