Announcing The Second Ruderman "Best in Business" Award: Recognizing Companies That Hire People With Disabilities

Last spring, the Ruderman Family Foundation partnered with the Jewish Week Media Group to produce its first Ruderman “Best in Business” supplementrecognizing exemplary businesses that have demonstrated a history of employing people with disabilities, training and supporting them and developing innovative approaches to maximizing employee’s abilities. Ten businesses were selected through a national nomination and review process and were profiled in both a print and online supplement.

Ruderman "Best in Business" Supplement 2015

How Musical-Visual Bar Mitzvah Rituals Communicated My Son’s Essence

On January 18, 2016, my son George Chaim became Bar Mitzvah at our synagogue, Mishkan Shalom. Like my fellow parents who have experienced their adolescent children going through this intensive rite-of-passage, I am still kvelling, sometimes teary-eyed, as I face the reality that we have already experienced thirteen years of his—and my—life together.

The author with her son, George. Courtesy of Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer

Preparing For Our Son's Bar Mitzvah Is A Coming-Of-Age Moment For Us, Too

Editor's Note: This blog originally appeared on newsworks.

In less than a week, my son, George, will turn 13, and like generations of Jewish boys before him, he will become a bar mitzvah. 

For George, who is non-verbal and on the more severe end of the autism spectrum, his bar mitzvah service will be carefully modified. We've taught him how to select his Torah verses from an app on his iPad that he uses to communicate. Rather than a speech about his Torah portion, he is painting a collage about it. He will deliver prayers from his front row seat, as standing before the congregation would cause him sensory overwhelm.

As we've prepared for his service, I've questioned my choices.

The author with her son, George. Courtesy of Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer

What Hillary Clinton's Autism Initiative Really Means

On Jan. 5, Hillary Clinton revealed an autism initiative that is fairly comprehensive in scope. It includes programs tailored towards all age groups, from early diagnosis in toddlers (particularly those in underserved communities), to educational support and anti-bullying strategies for students, to increased housing and employment options for adults.

More impressively, Clinton navigated the political minefield that is the autism community fairly successfully.

The author with her son. Courtesy of Amy Lutz

Israeli-American Camp Embraces Autistic Boy, Increases Camper Compassion

No one had ever asked to take a selfie with Yarin, a 19-year-old boy with autism. But when his mother arranged for him to spend one week at the Israeli-American Council’s Machane Kachol Lavan summer camp, the resulting understanding and friendship changed everyone.

12 Tips For Holiday Hosts Who Entertain Guests With Sensory Challenges

Editor's Note: I was delighted to be a resource for this article that originally appeared on Great ideas to support your guests at upcoming Chanukah parties!

Holiday season is now upon us. Maybe this week you are packing your bags to hit the road to attend a family dinner or perfecting your shopping list as host of the perfect event. Maybe you’ve worked hard planning your holiday menu, taking into account guest food allergies and vegetarian preferences.

You think a lot about your guest’s experience, I challenge you to consider your guest’s surroundings, specifically of the sensory variety.

What Are YOU Thankful For? Part 2

Editor's Note: In honor of Thanksgiving, we asked our "New Normal" contributors to reflect on the intersection of gratitude and disability. We'd love to hear what you are thankful for in the comments below! Read part one here.

When raising a child who has autism, a sleep disorder, and all of the other diagnoses that come as a result, I often hear, "I don't know how you do it." The simplest answer is that we all do what we need to do. This is our life; it is the only life we know. And even though it is extremely challenging at times, we love our son unconditionally and we do what we need to do to give him what he needs.

The Steinhart Family. Courtesy of Meir Pliskin Photography

Autism, A Roll Of Tape And Ways To Make Classroom Inclusion Real

Editor's Note: This blog originally appeared in e-Jewish philanthropy.

In my work as a coach and trainer at Ramapo for Children I partner with hundreds of schools, community organizations, agencies and synagogues to create inclusive environments for the broadest range of children to become successful.

JCCA’s Compass Internships Help Create Confidence, Friendships And Skills

JCCA’s Compass Project helps young people on the autism spectrum (or with other learning and developmental differences) make a successful transition from high school or college to the workplace and independent adulthood. Young adults on the autism ppectrum are often challenged by finding and keeping a job, learning to socialize and making friends. This summer, Compass placed many interns in jobs in a wide range fields such as retail, working with seniors and office work. Cara, a cheerful 17-year-old on the autism spectrum, was one of the interns.

For Rosh Hashanah: Tuning Our Ears To All The Angels

My company Actionplay is an inclusive group that relies on ensemble-based performance to build social communities that rise above the feeling of being excluded. We embody the notion that in difference there is great strength. The meaningful and supportive relationships that are formed in our rehearsal room are essential for those of us who don’t quite fit the norm.

Actionplay performers. Courtesy of Aaron Feinstein
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