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.

Success: Supported Employment At Camp Ramah

We are happy to share this interview between Howard Blas and Alex Cohen, a participant in a supported employment program at Camp Ramah in New England. Some graduates of the vocational training  program for young adults with disabilities are hired for positions at the camp and are supported by job-site supervisors and our director of staff support. The program also provides assistance to some staff members who have not previously attended camp but would benefit from a similar level of support. 

Alex Cohen. Courtesy of Howard Blas

The Synagogue Inclusion Project: Park Slope Jewish Center

Since March of 2015, six New York area synagogues have been focused on tangibly weaving the inclusion of people with disabilities in the fabric of their communities. UJA-Federation of New York, with funding from the Leo Oppenheimer & Flora Oppenheimer Haas Foundation, piloted The Synagogue Inclusion Project, a groundbreaking 18-month pilot program to create a replicable, sustainable approach to integrating members of our community with disabilities. The pilot synagogue cohort included synagogues large and small, Conservative and Reform, urban and suburban. What bound them together was a stated desire to be inclusive of people with disabilities, but an underlying doubt that they were having the desired impact.

Community at Park Slope Jewish Center. Courtesy of Aileen Heiman

When The School Bus Stops Coming: "Falling Off A Cliff"

I have feared the day the school bus stops coming for my son Noah for so long that I’m not sure I recall a time when that fear didn’t dog me. In fact, it feels as if I’ve held onto that fear as long as I’ve held onto him. The day is now officially a year away, since Noah started his last year of high school September 1, 2016. 

I recall vividly, with each of my kids, the promise embedded in each first day of school. I picked out their clothes, put little backpacks with some favorite character emblazoned on it over their shoulders, and walked with them to pre-school. Then I brought them to the bus stop for their first day of kindergarten. Everything felt so full of hope. One son graduated from college a year ago. My daughter just started her junior year of high school. Noah will finish his sixth year of high school this year and then go off a cliff.

The author's son, Noah. Courtesy of Nina Mogilnik

Announcing the 2016 Ruderman Best in Business Award Winners

For the second year, the Ruderman Family Foundation has partnered with The Jewish Week Media Group to select exemplary companies that train, hire and support employees with disabilities for the Ruderman Best in Business Award.

Starting at the end of March 2016, we embarked on a social media campaign to solicit nominees for companies across America that train, support and hire people with disabilities. Over an eight-week period, nominations came in from employers, advocates, customers and people with disabilities, explaining why their nominee should receive this honor. 

Ruderman "Best in Business" Award 2016. Courtesy of the Ruderman Family Foundation

The Synagogue Inclusion Project: Park Avenue Synagogue

Since March of 2015, six New York area synagogues have been focused on tangibly weaving the inclusion of people with disabilities in the fabric of their communities. UJA-Federation of New York, with funding from the Leo Oppenheimer & Flora Oppenheimer Haas Foundation, piloted The Synagogue Inclusion Project, a groundbreaking 18-month pilot program to create a replicable, sustainable approach to integrating members of our community with disabilities. The pilot synagogue cohort included synagogues large and small, Conservative and Reform, urban and suburban. What bound them together was a stated desire to be inclusive of people with disabilities, but an underlying doubt that they were having the desired impact.

Affixing mezuzah at accessible heights. Courtesy of Shelley Cohen

Autism And Dentistry: A Guide To Making Appointments Easier

Now that the summer has come to an end, it is time for parents to think about the fall season, back to school, and catching up on doctors and dentist check-up appointments. Visiting the dentist can be a frightening sensory experience for some children with autism. Here are some tips when taking your child with autism to the dentist.

Autism. Courtesy of Fotalia

Gov. Markell: America’s Jewish Governor, Standing Up For Disabilities

While there are multiple Jews in Congress and the Senate, only one Jew serves at the chief executive of their state: Governor Jack Markell of Delaware. He is term-limited, so sadly his tenure in this office will end soon. He is a major hero in public life, so it’s worth your time to look at his expansive contributions.

The author and other RespectAbility board members with Gov. Markell. Courtesy of Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi

Join Ramah's First-Ever Tikvah Family Israel Trip

At Camp Ramah, Israel is central. Dozens of Israeli shlichim (emissaries) “bring” Israel to our nine overnight camps and four day camps in North America each summer. And, for decades, campers have been participating in a variety of programs through Ramah Israel including Ramah Israel Seminar, Tichon Ramah Yerushalayim (TRY), Ramah Israel Institute, and Ramah Jerusalem Day Camp.

Campers with disabilities in our inclusive camping programs have many opportunities to form meaningful relationships each summer with the shlichim, who serve as bunk counselors and teach swimming, sports, arts and crafts, dance, and more.

Tikvah participants in Israel. Courtesy of Howard Blas

Experience What Autism Might Feel Like Through Video

Editor's Note: This blog originally appeared at Forbes.com.

 

The Cherokee tribe of Native Americans had a well-known proverb stating that you “shouldn’t judge a person before you have walked a mile in their shoes”. It’s practical advice to view a situation from the perspective of another before rendering an opinion. One can see how this type of thinking can lead to greater compassion and understanding of those around us.

 

But how can one really experience the perspective of another? It’s certainly easier said than done. Consider the case of individuals with autism. These days almost everyone has heard of autism or autism spectrum disorders (ASD), both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development.

Registering Our Son To Vote: Disability, Standing Up And Election 2016

This has been a grueling political season, full of rancor and too much ugliness to catalogue.  Some days, I just want to hide under the covers and pretend it’s all a bad dream. But then I think about my children. 

Having children is, at least for me, the ultimate act of cockeyed optimism. There are so many reasons to be fearful of bringing children into the world, of exposing them to the awfulness to which human beings can lower themselves. But then of course there is the profound, unparalleled opportunity to try to shape another human being by the values and beliefs you hold dear, and that is in many ways irresistible. Not to mention sometimes just flat out joyous fun.

The author's family. Courtesy of Nina Mogilnik
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