The New Normal Blog

Posted: Wed, 07/20/2016 - 15:20 | Posted by: Erica Steen | The New Normal
A Summer of Service participant. Courtesy of Erica Steen

These days, many high schools require teens to earn community service/volunteer hours to graduate. That’s easier said than done by any teen, and even more difficult for teens that aren’t neuro-typical. Parents of teens with disabilities have enough responsibilities without having to worry about how they will help their teen get volunteer hours.

Enter the Edlavitch DCJCC’s Morris Cafritz Center for Community Service’s Summer of Service Camp. With close to 30 years of experience putting together volunteer projects to help the DC community give back, and the expertise of amazing special education teachers, Summer of Service is a place where teens of all abilities can come together to strengthen the community and change lives. This unique program was co-founded by RespectAbilityUSA, with seed money from the Mizrahi Family Charitable Fund.

Posted: Tue, 07/19/2016 - 07:15 | Posted by: Dr. Tamir Rotman | The New Normal
A participant in Free Spirit Israel. Courtesy of Tamir Rotman

What is it about Israel that draws so much attention and interest? In this case, it's the positive attention and focus that is in the spotlight. Since the early nineteen hundreds (and possibly millennia earlier), Israel attracted Jewish youth looking for adventures and an opportunity to prove that they are better than what their previous circumstances set them up to be.

Posted: Fri, 07/15/2016 - 07:27 | Posted by: Rabbi Rebecca Schorr | The New Normal
'The A Word' takes an unwavering look into the world of a family grappling  autism. Courtesy of Sundance TV

It was Benjamin’s fifth birthday party. We had dozens of friends and family coming to our home to celebrate with him. The details of the party had been planned for weeks, and Benjamin had been looking forward to the day. Everything was going according to plan. Until it wasn’t. A relative had walked into the party and approached Benjamin for a hug. He recoiled from her touch and, screaming, ran to seek solace in his bedroom. Where he remained for the remainder of his party.  

The premiere episode of "The A Word," a British import on the Sundance Channel — and based on an Israeli drama — opens with the birthday party of five-year-old Joe. And like my son, Joe’s party is interrupted by behaviors that appear to be caused by the overstimulation that often occurs for those on the autism spectrum.

Posted: Thu, 07/07/2016 - 09:29 | Posted by: Nina Mogilnik | The New Normal
The author's three children in Copenhagen. Nina Mogilnik

I consider family vacations the most important thing our family does for itself. But these outings have never been without complications, and having an autistic child in the mix makes everything a bit more challenging. Although Noah is now 20 years old, vacations are still something to which we give great thought, and through the years, we’ve learned a lot, struggled at times, and racked up some pretty spectacular memories.

I recall the first time we took Noah on a plane. He was about 4 years old, and we took him and his older brother, Sam, to Florida. About 15 minutes into the three-hour flight, Noah was ready to de-plane. It was not a pretty sight, but my husband and I did our best to distract him, and we got to our destination not too much worse for wear.

Posted: Fri, 07/01/2016 - 07:33 | Posted by: Rabbi Michael Levy | The New Normal
Rabbi Michael Levy

How much should I depend on others? Does depending on others mean that I am “giving in” to my disability? If I am overly dependent, will I end up in a dull dark world where I rely on others to bring me happiness? 

Issues like these confront some people with disabilities almost every day. A person whose upper body movements are limited could spend two hours dressing herself or dress in 10 minutes with assistance from a health aid. After a stroke, a person no longer able to drive must either travel on four buses from home to work or depend on a friend to drive him. 

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