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.

Gov. Malloy Opens DNC By Owning His Own Disabilities

Editor's Note: Thanks to RespectAbilityUSA for sharing this blog that originally appears on their web site.

“I am here today to tell you a story of hope,” Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, before speaking about his life and experiences as a person with multiple disabilities.

“It’s a story of a young boy with physical and severe learning disabilities,” Malloy said.

He related his early experiences and how “reading and writing were almost impossible” for him.

“A child thought to be, as the term was used in the early 1960s, ‘mentally retarded’ as late as the fourth grade. A boy who could not tie a shoe or button his shirt until the fifth grade. Someone who knew the harsh words of bullies on the playground and discrimination in the classroom.”

Gov. Dannel Malloy. Courtesy of RespectAbility

Hands Up, Don't Shoot

Editor's Note: If you are following the disturbing story of the shooting of an unarmed therapist trying to help his autistic client by a Miami police officer, there has been an update over the weekend in which the officer has confessed that the bullet was actually intended for the man with autism sitting in the road with his toy truck.

I woke up one recent July morning, and I wept. As per my usual habit, I checked the news shortly after getting up. The first story I landed on was about a Miami police officer shooting the caretaker of a young autistic man who had wandered away from his center, and whom the caretaker had gone after to bring back. There’s no mystery here about the circumstances of the shooting, no reason to parse the police version of the story vs. the victim’s story. There’s just this:  a black man lying on his back, his empty hands up behind his head, and his autistic charge sitting nearby, playing with his toy truck. If you don’t believe me, here it is: 

I was completely rattled by this story.

Therapist Charles Kinsey was shot by a North Miami police officer. Courtesy of NBC

Teens With And Without Disabilities Solving Real-World Problems

These days, many high schools require teens to earn community service/volunteer hours to graduate. That’s easier said than done by any teen, and even more difficult for teens that aren’t neuro-typical. Parents of teens with disabilities have enough responsibilities without having to worry about how they will help their teen get volunteer hours.

Enter the Edlavitch DCJCC’s Morris Cafritz Center for Community Service’s Summer of Service Camp. With close to 30 years of experience putting together volunteer projects to help the DC community give back, and the expertise of amazing special education teachers, Summer of Service is a place where teens of all abilities can come together to strengthen the community and change lives. This unique program was co-founded by RespectAbilityUSA, with seed money from the Mizrahi Family Charitable Fund.

A Summer of Service participant. Courtesy of Erica Steen

Israel Gives Back: Supporting Teens That Need Extra Support

What is it about Israel that draws so much attention and interest? In this case, it's the positive attention and focus that is in the spotlight. Since the early nineteen hundreds (and possibly millennia earlier), Israel attracted Jewish youth looking for adventures and an opportunity to prove that they are better than what their previous circumstances set them up to be.

A participant in Free Spirit Israel. Courtesy of Tamir Rotman

Review: 'The A Word' Is An Authentic Window Into Autism

It was Benjamin’s fifth birthday party. We had dozens of friends and family coming to our home to celebrate with him. The details of the party had been planned for weeks, and Benjamin had been looking forward to the day. Everything was going according to plan. Until it wasn’t. A relative had walked into the party and approached Benjamin for a hug. He recoiled from her touch and, screaming, ran to seek solace in his bedroom. Where he remained for the remainder of his party.  

The premiere episode of "The A Word," a British import on the Sundance Channel — and based on an Israeli drama — opens with the birthday party of five-year-old Joe. And like my son, Joe’s party is interrupted by behaviors that appear to be caused by the overstimulation that often occurs for those on the autism spectrum.

'The A Word' takes an unwavering look into the world of a family grappling  autism. Courtesy of Sundance TV

Stresses & Successes Of Family Vacations With A Child Who Has Autism

I consider family vacations the most important thing our family does for itself. But these outings have never been without complications, and having an autistic child in the mix makes everything a bit more challenging. Although Noah is now 20 years old, vacations are still something to which we give great thought, and through the years, we’ve learned a lot, struggled at times, and racked up some pretty spectacular memories.

I recall the first time we took Noah on a plane. He was about 4 years old, and we took him and his older brother, Sam, to Florida. About 15 minutes into the three-hour flight, Noah was ready to de-plane. It was not a pretty sight, but my husband and I did our best to distract him, and we got to our destination not too much worse for wear.

The author's three children in Copenhagen. Nina Mogilnik

My Personal Declaration Of Independence

How much should I depend on others? Does depending on others mean that I am “giving in” to my disability? If I am overly dependent, will I end up in a dull dark world where I rely on others to bring me happiness? 

Issues like these confront some people with disabilities almost every day. A person whose upper body movements are limited could spend two hours dressing herself or dress in 10 minutes with assistance from a health aid. After a stroke, a person no longer able to drive must either travel on four buses from home to work or depend on a friend to drive him. 

Rabbi Michael Levy

10 Ways To Be An Advocate For Your Child With Disabilities

Editor's Note: Liane Carter's list of her ten ways to be an advocate are instructive for parents raising children with disabilities all year long.

Jewish Book Council. Courtesy of The Jewish Book Council

Nomination Period Opens For Fifth Annual Ruderman Prize In Inclusion With Organizations To Be Awarded A Quarter Million Dollars

Boston, MA, June 21st, 2016 — The Ruderman Family Foundation has opened the nomination period for its international Ruderman Prize in Inclusion, now in its fifth consecutive year of operation. Five individual $50,000 awards will be given to companies and organizations that operate innovative programs and provide services that foster the full inclusion of people with disabilities.

Five organizations from around the world will be selected for the Prize, which in total will amount to $250,000 that the Foundation will invest as recognition for the important work being done, and to also ensure that resources are available to allow them to continue.

Genesis Prize & Perlman: Helping Jews With And Without Disabilities

When the inaugural Genesis Prize, dubbed by Time magazine as “The Jewish Nobel,” was awarded in 2014 to one of the world’s leading philanthropists and public servants, New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, I admit I was very skeptical. I remember scratching my head and thinking, “One set of super rich guys gives another super rich guy $1 million? How’s that going to help anyone?” But, I’ve been proven wrong.

Violinist Itzhak Perlman. JTA
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