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.

Eight Ways To Build A More Inclusive Community

It’s Chanukah, and we’re thinking in eights. Here are eight steps we all can take towards making a more inclusive community for people of all abilities all year long.

1. Use People-First Language: The words used to describe us have an impact on our lives. One important change that many of us can make is to shift how we talk about people with disabilities — doing so helps to shift our perspectives and see the whole person. Put the person before the disability. David is a child who has autism, not an autistic child. Click here for resources to help guide you in using people-first language.

Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer

An Exchange Of Gifts

I became aware of this man – I’ll call him Joe – as he often sat across from me at the cafeteria-style eatery we both frequented. Around four decades older than I, he was no shrinking violet. If I had my daily paper spread out to the side of and behind my bagel, egg and coffee meal, he’d say something like, “Do you think I could have a couple inches of the table?” 

Rather than get annoyed, I liked his feistiness and I would quickly move my paper to give him as much room as possible.

Alan Magill

Chanukah Resources For All Children

Chanukah is here! Have your children forgotten the blessings since last year? Do they need to brush up on their Chanukah skills? Do you need some activities for that Chanukah bash you are throwing? Look no further!

Below is a list of resources for everything you will need to make Chanukah accessible and fun, for everyone:

Learning about Chanukah. Courtesy of Gateways

Holiday Gifts For Children Of All Abilities

Chanukah is a time to spend with friends and family lighting candles, eating delicious foods and exchanging gifts. When buying gifts for children and adolescents with autism always ask parents for gift suggestions. They can tell you about the child’s dietary restrictions, interests, and strengths and weaknesses. If you do not feel comfortable asking parents for holiday shopping advice, observe what toys, games, books, electronic appliances the child seems to enjoy. Parents will always appreciate having another one of their child’s favorite item readily available in case it is damaged. 

Dr. Frances Victory

Creating Great Jewish Learning Experiences for All Kinds of Learners

Adam Rogers knows what it’s like to face challenges in school or in interactions with friends. As a younger kid, he experienced anger management issues. Now, as a high school sophomore, Adam helps others overcome their own set of learning challenges through the B’Tzelem: Jewish Teen Learning Companions at five Cleveland area congregations.

“My role in B’Tzelem is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done,” says Adam, who helps an 8th grader at Kol Chadash in Solon, OH.

B'Tzelem Teen Fellow. Courtesy of Jason Edelstein

The Little Miracle That Connected Me To HaShem

Hashem works in interesting ways. In the middle 1990s, I had a really good psychotherapist who went for another job and I was broken up about it. Mom had her own health issues and it also bothered her that I lost a therapist we really trusted. I was depressed and Mom wanted to cheer me up.

It was Chanukah time and she was out shopping at the Roosevelt Mall in Northeast Philadelphia and there was a Radio Shack that was having a grand opening sale. They were selling radios and Walkmans and knowing my love for music, she thought, “This will cheer Phyllis up.”

Phyllis Lit

Actually, It Doesn't Take A Village

We have all heard the phrase, "It takes a village to raise a child.” Some attribute it to an African proverb, though there appears to be some controversy about that. The phrase itself has become shopworn, utilized by elected officials, pundits and others. 

Steven Eidelman

Bar Mitzvah Twins: Roi And Zachary

When I was little I thought that becoming a bar mitzvah was about learning to read the Torah and putting on tefillin. But as it gets closer I realize it is also about taking on some important adult responsibilities, like thinking of others. So in preparation for my upcoming bar mitzvah this spring I decided to "twin" with a child with disabilities from Beit Issie Shapiro in Ra’anana, Israel.

I know a lot about Beit Issie because my parents have been involved there since before I was born. It’s not only a school for children with developmental disabilities, but also a place where they teach therapists from all over the world new things.

Institute On Disabilities And Inclusion: Let Go Of The Old, Transform The Community

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

The second cohort of the Jewish Leadership Institute on Disabilities and Inclusion (JLIDI) convenes at the Pearlstone Center near Baltimore for four days of intense study this week. They will be treated to compelling and insightful presentations by our excellent faculty, bond with and learn from each other and have time to reflect on individual leadership challenges.

When I returned from the National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities (NLCDD) Leadership Institute, on which the JLIDI is based, in 2009, I was inspired by the concept of Person-Centered Thinking, in which all people have positive control over the lives they have chosen for themselves.

Faculty members Sarah Blitzstein, Rabbi Lynne Landsberg and Shelly Christensen. Courtesy of Shelly Christensen

Tikvah Family Shabbaton: Not Merely Accommodated, But Accepted and Nurtured

I am filled with the overwhelming feeling of gratifying exhaustion from running Ramah New England’s second Tikvah Family Shabbaton.

Tikvah Family Shabbaton Participants. Courtesy of Tali Cohen
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