The New Normal

Everyone is welcome in The New Normal, a Jewish blog about disability. We're a source of information, inspiration and a challenge to received wisdom.

My Vision For The New Year

The leaves are changing.  The air is crisp, with a hint of a chill.  The sweaters and long pants are coming out of storage.  No doubt about it.  Fall has arrived. 

And with the change in season will come changes in routine, changes in activities and changes in expectations.  All the things that fill the heart and gut of a special needs parent with fear and dread.

My son Gabe is six years old, and he has autism.  He is charming, and funny, and very very smart.  He also exhibits behavior at times that is unusual, challenging, and unpredictable. 

Mindfully Preparing For The High Holy Days

Editor's Note: We recently a new study that shows how mindfulness practice reduces stress, anxiety and depression in parents of children with special needs. Rabbi Yael Levy integrates mindfulness practice into Jewish worship and offers suggestions for how we can use mindfulness to prepare for the High Holy Days.

Q: What is mindfulness?

A Way In Rosh Hashanah E-Cards. Courtesy of A Way In

Preparing For High Holidays Services With A Child Who Has Special Needs

The time leading up to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is a time of introspection and intense planning. We think about the past year and reflect on how we have changed and grown. At the same time many of us are juggling work, getting kids ready for school, making travel arrangements, planning out the menu, buying brisket and baking challah.  Most of us are not thinking about how we are going to get through services. For a parent of a child with a disability this thought might be on the top of their list. There might be a feeling of apprehension about the community’s ability to welcome their family in an inclusive way.

Lisa Tobin

Elul Is A Time To Forgive Yourself, Too

If you read a lot of blogs and articles, particularly those focused on disability inclusion, it may seem like there a lot of “shoulds." This is how you should treat people with disabilities; this is how you should speak about people with disabilities; this is how you should include people with disabilities.

Maybe you read these “shoulds” and they spark within you an idea of a possibility and you are inspired to make a change. Or maybe you read them and find yourself feeling guilty.

Lisa Friedman

When Yeshivas Give Up

Editor's Note: This blog entry was submitted to us by a friend of "The New Normal" who wishes to remain anonymous.

This time of year is full of prayer and tears. We ask G-d to forgive us for our sins and to give us what we need in the year to come. G-d always answers us, although sometimes it is hard to see or hear.  At times “luck” is on our side and others it seems as though the world is falling apart.

Over the past few months G-d has given me personal tests that I would rather do without.  A divorce, needing to move, looking for a new job ... all are things that I would have buried myself under the covers to ignore.  But luckily, with the support of a good therapist, amazing parents and friends, I have been able to overcome my ostrich-like habits.

But there is one thing that remains.  There is one thing that breaks my heart on a daily basis.  It has me searching for answers and crying my heart out.  My life’s challenges have impacted greatly on my daughter.

TIPTOE 2014 Video Contest: Through Our Eyes

TIPTOE (The Inclusion Project: Through Our Eyes), a partnership between the Ruderman Family Foundation, the Jewish Foundation For Camp and the National Ramah Tikvah Network Of Programs For Campers With Disabilities, has just announced a disabilities inclusion-themed video contest. The contest is open to anyone who participated as a camper or college-aged staff member in any North American Jewish summer camp program in 2014.

Cooking Our Way Through The Holidays

A couple of weeks ago, my family and I spent five amazing days at Tikvah Family Camp at Ramah in the Poconos, connecting with other families who have children with a range of special needs and enjoying camp life. During the mornings, children are paired with “Chavereem” who lead them in sports, art, swimming and other activities while parents get time to themselves. One of my highlights from this year’s camp was when I met up with my 11-year-old son, George, who has autism, and his lovely Chavera Davida at lunch. “George LOVED cooking!” Davida exclaimed. “He was so focused and into it. He did a great job.”

I smiled. George and I have been cooking together since he was four, when a cognitive-behavioral therapist recommended cooking as a way for us to engage in back and forth sharing and connecting. I thought she was crazy; at that time, George’s behavior was so hyper that he might only focus on a preferred activity for a minute at a time.

The author cooking with her children. Courtesy of Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer

A Teacher And His Runaway Student: Preparing for the High Holidays

On Tuesday night, August 26, the "spiritual pre-season," leading up to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, began. We celebrated the first day of Elul, the Hebrew month during which Jews traditionally examine their behavior and contemplated self-improvement.

Rabbi Michael Levy

I Am Able: Share YOUR Selfies!

The New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities has mounted an "I Am Able"? campaign to document and celebrate the abilities of the individuals that the office serves. People with disabilities are encouraged to submit pictures and share accomplishments in their own words.

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