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Special Needs
Wed, 06/23/2010

Regarding your article “Special-Needs Families Fighting Jewish Day Schools” (June 11), please note that Yeshiva Darchei Torah, with more than 1,600 students, boldly fights this longstanding prejudice toward special-needs children and bravely welcomes special children with all disabilities (including cognitive), alongside their typical peers.

It stems from the top-down institutional recognition that typical students exposed to special- needs peers develop personal principles, the ability to assume an advocacy role for a friend with disabilities and a reduced fear of human differences. Classmates are empowered to do the right thing, not by being told to by a teacher’s instruction but by instinct borne of watching (and helping) a less gifted peer struggle to succeed. 

Not every special-needs child succeeds in the environment — but each child receives that which they (and Caily Samuels, cited in your story) absolutely deserve — a chance. Given that simple opportunity to shine and with proper support, many special-needs students with cognitive disabilities greatly surpass expectations. This inclusive model requires true administrative leadership, visionary educators and an admissions policy committed to giving every child the opportunity for a Jewish education — all factors which sadly appear absent at Manhattan Day School. 

Shame on them.

Cedarhurst, L.I.

 

 

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Andrew, thanks for sharing re Darchei Torah , but you, like the Samuels and their supporters, continue to unfairly single out MDS to the exclusion of the other jewish day schools, all of whom , in fact, do MUCH less than MDS does in the special needs arena. This hatchet job vs. MDS is much akin to the criticism that the world heaps upon the IDF .....the most moral army in the world gets crucified for any actions it takes even though they continue to put their soldiers at risk in order to be as careful as they can be with respect to civilians, which no other army does, yet the IDF is the only one criticized. Similarly, MDS has been at the forefront in having programs for special needs children , which other schools do not, yet it now finds itself having to defend themselves to the exclusion of every other Jewish Day School that the Samuels have undoubtedly contacted. The reality is that families that have children in other schools like Ramaz, Heschel, and SAR, send their special needs child to MDS even while their other children remain at the aforementioned schools. Why do you think that is? It's because they recognize that only MDS has the special needs programs that the other schools do not have. So before you and the other critics keep pounding on MDS, how about addressing the need for the other schools to at least get up to speed to where MDS is in this arena..... Shame on YOU , Andrew, Shame on you.....

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