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Posted: Tue, 06/09/2015 - 05:32 | The New Normal

Editor's Note: At the "New Normal," we're excited that two of this year's "36 Under 36" winners work for more inclusion of people with disabilities. We're sharing one of the profiles today:

When Tikvah Juni was 16, she received her first standing ovation.

“I remember all the people, cheering and smiling,” said Juni, who had been the guest speaker at an event hosted by Yachad: The National Jewish Council for Disabilities.

“That was the first time I really believed the world could change,” she said. Since then, she’s been trying to change the world one speech at a time.

Juni, who has Down syndrome, travels around the U.S. teaching audiences about inclusion. In Washington, D.C., she even lobbied state and federal legislators to increase resources for special needs students.

Posted: Mon, 06/08/2015 - 10:22 | The New Normal

Yesterday, the Masorti Movement for Conservative Judaism in Israel sent a letter to Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, signed by the leaders of every major Conservative Jewish organization, urging him to reconsider the cancellation of a bar and bat mitzvah ceremony for children with disabilities.

The mayor of Rehovot, Israel had cancelled the bar mitzvah last month because it was taking place in a Conservative, not Orthodox, synagogue. That move sparked outrage on social media from the progressive Jewish community in Israel and around the world. In response, representatives of the Masorti Movement for Conservative Judaism and officials from the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs worked on a compromise with members of the President of Israel's office. The parents and children were happy with the outcome and it seemed like the ceremony was set to take place.

Posted: Thu, 06/04/2015 - 07:40 | The New Normal

At last summer has begun! We've celebrated Memorial Day; soon we will be enjoying the fireworks of the 4th of July and before we know it, we'll be saying good bye to the summer with our Labor Day plans. This past Memorial day, I went to a Mets game with friends and family. As I walked around through the parking lot, gift shop, museum and food area, I began to think about how a child with autism may feel overwhelmed at baseball game or any kind of event in a crowded public area that families may wish to attend over the summer.

Posted: Tue, 05/26/2015 - 05:53 | The New Normal

In 1965, the phrase “special needs” hadn’t yet been coined. I felt just like the other 15 students — excited about our Bar Mitzvahs, but bored by the four hours of preparation each week.

Posted: Tue, 05/12/2015 - 06:01 | The New Normal

Editor's Note: We are sharing Chen Amira's beautiful blog in two parts. Click here to read part one.

I thought to myself that the place where Neta feels most comfortable and safe is the swimming pool. For two and a half years now, Neta has been having hydrotherapy treatments at the pool at Beit Issie Shapiro and her progress there has been enormous. I thought how fantastic it would be if we were to expose Neta's cousins to her strengths and abilities: that they could see that she is not a baby who doesn't speak and is dependent on her parents; that they could see for themselves how independent she is in the water; how she swings with complete confidence on the rope in the pool and how, with flippers and a floatation belt, she can swim and move forward on her own.

Posted: Tue, 05/12/2015 - 05:38 | The New Normal

Editor's Note: Today we are sharing part one of a mother's beautiful blog. Look for Part 2 tomorrow.

As far back as I can remember, I have always loved and awaited my birthday. When August arrives, I am already full of expectation, even though I was born at the end of the month. So much so that when my siblings want to tease me, they say to me: "If August would only come already …" My birthday is my day: I spoil myself on that day and do things that I love. I enjoy the attention from those around me and feel very special.

Since my Neta was born, her birthday is a complex and tumultuous day for me. I want to celebrate and be happy in the way that I know birthdays to be, but I cannot help hurting. On this day, the chronological age that we "celebrate" and according to which we place candles on the cake confronts the developmental age that she has reached.