Posted: Mon, 03/30/2015 - 07:40 | Posted by: Rebecca Redner | The New Normal

I have been surprised by what most people have told me is their favorite element of the new Gateways Haggadah: it is not the clear directions, the inclusive photographs, or even the Mayer Johnson picture communication symbols.  Rather, it is a section that I had originally not included in the Haggadah: The Four Children.  In my original drafts of Haggadah I left out everything but the bare essentials, and the Four Sons ended up on the cutting room floor.  But that changed because of the memories of one extraordinary student and an unexpected request for help from her family: 

Rachel was, by turns, enthusiastic, grumpy, silly, listless, sunny, and full of pre-teen attitude.  As the result of her childhood stroke, Rachel used a bright pink wheelchair to get around, and she communicated through hand gestures, vocalizations, facial expressions, and a communication device called a Dynavox (also pink). 

Posted: Fri, 03/20/2015 - 11:24 | Posted by: Rabbi Michael Levy | The New Normal
Rabbi Michael Levy

Last month, many people worked tirelessly to make congregations and communities across our country aware of the capabilities and aspirations of Jews with disabilities. What can we do to transform the message of Jewish disability awareness into meaningful changes that bring us closer to full integration into Jewish life the other eleven months of the year?

Dramatic and widely publicized events have their place, but how long will their message remain effective? The experiences of the Biblical stories of Moses and Elijah remind us that ongoing “small quiet voices” must be heard after the fanfare. Let’s look at some “awareness initiatives” from early Jewish history that can help to guide us.

Posted: Fri, 03/20/2015 - 09:39 | Posted by: Howard Blas | The New Normal

While there is still snow on the ground in parts of the northeast and most people are ready to transition from winter to spring, camp professionals think about summer all year long! We hire staff, recruit campers, host reunions, plan programs and participate in professional development. It is so important to share experiences with other camp professionals and to learn from them.

At Ramah, the camping arm of Conservative Judaism, we are excited to share our experiences in inclusive camping with colleagues from throughout the Jewish camping world.

That's one reason why the National Ramah Tikvah Network is looking forward to hosting an in-person seminar (which will also be presented as a webinar) entitled, “How Inclusive Camping Benefits Typical Campers, Campers with Disabilities, and Camp’s Bottom Line.

Posted: Mon, 03/16/2015 - 10:54 | Posted by: Frances Victory | The New Normal

Passover is coming in just a few weeks! With changes to routines and food, children with special needs may need some extra support for these changes and be able to enjoy the holiday. Here are some easy tip to help your child get ready.

1. Use a calendar to count down the days until Passover.

2. Show your child pictures of friends and family that will be at your Seder. Discuss your relationship with each person. Suggest a possible topic your child can use to start a conversation with each person. 

Posted: Wed, 03/11/2015 - 12:28 | Posted by: Nancy Mager | The New Normal
Celebrating Purim! Courtesy of Gateways

I love being able to give families of students with special needs the opportunity to participate in Jewish milestones and traditions like any other family. This year was the 5th year that we hosted an accessible Purim carnival for our students. Each year, we build a carnival with accommodations and care so that our students will not feel overwhelmed and can participate in some way in all of the activities.

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