I have a disability (dyslexia) and could not really read or write until I was twelve. I remember vividly how people called me "stupid" and worse. I found my strength in my connection to G-d and the Jewish people. Over time, I learned to adapt and be strong. Judaism and the Jewish people (and my family) gave me that gift.
Last week, the New Normal ran two posts by Rabbi Rebecca Schorr, who is very nervous about the coming summer. Her son Ben, who has Asperger’s, learned recently that his beloved self-contained summer camp, Round Lake, is moving to become part of a campus that contains four other camps. Ben and his buddies will still have their own bunks, but they will spend much of the day in mainstream activities and social settings. Rabbi Schorr concluded that the Jewish community needs both self-contained and integrated summer camps. Now, we’re publishing a Q&A with Shelley Cohen, one of the architects of the change and also a mother of a child with a disability. She spoke with the blog about why Round Lake is making this change and how they determined they are to make it work for Ben and his friends.
Editor's Note: This post is the second of two. In the first part, Rabbi Rebecca Schorr wrote about the long and sometimes painful process of trying to find a summer camp for her son, who has Asperger's. Finally, she and her husband found Round Lake, a Jewish camp that was “self-contained,” meaning it was designed specifically for children with disabilities. But then they found out that Round Lake was moving to another campus. Ben and his buddies will still have their own bunks, but they will spend much of the day in mainstream activities and social settings. Below, in part two of Rabbi Schorr's post, she gathers her thoughts about what is often called the “inclusion debate,” and concludes that it is a false dichotomy.
In a carefully-crafted letter, Round Lake billed the move as a positive change that will allow our kids access the more modern facilities at the Milford location as well as more elective opportunities with assurances that the camp will maintain its identity: “Think of it as everything RLC has always been, plus.”
Editor's Note: This post is the first of four parts. The second will run tomorrow and will reveal the author's thoughts about specialized and inclusive camps as she anticipates her son's summer.
With spring on the wing, many families are eagerly awaiting the expansive, sunshine-filled days of summer. But those of us parenting children with special needs often see the school-free summer as an annual albatross.
I’m an angry mother. I’m also a dedicated mother, and an all-or-nothing mother. Tiger mother? She’s got nothing on me. She’s too busy seeing that her kids become concert violinists, go to Harvard, come up with a cure for cancer and change the world. Pfft - that’s the easy stuff. The road to Carnegie Hall may be paved with hours of tears and practice at her house, but I invite her to join me on the Yellow Brick Road, where each brick is paved with sweat, tears, and wet sheets. Lots of laughter but lots of laundry, too. Me? I’m making sure that my kid is always treated with respect and caring, and kindness, don’t forget kindness, especially when your child requires significant help with simple, everyday activities.
In Berachot (34b), the Talmud teaches that a synagogue must be built with windows in the sanctuary. I believe this is so we can see who is outside and unable to join us. As Jews, we have to maintain “mental windows” everywhere so that we understand that those whom we refer to as “shut-ins” are not shut-in. They are cruelly shut out of the life many of us take for granted.
UJA-Federation of New York announced its second year of awards to synagogues that have done “exemplary” work in making their spaces more inclusive of people with disabilities, according to a press release.