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.

Must-Read Response: At Jewish Schools, Inclusion Should Trump Local Rankings

Editor's Note: Yesterday, we highlighted a response to regular blogger Meredith Englander Polsky's piece about how she pulled her daughter out of Jewish day school. Click here for the original post and here for the comment; below is Meredith's response to the comment.

Thank you - I appreciate your response. I agree that this school (and probably Jewish Day Schools in general) face a real challenge as pressure grows to be as academically challenging as a Sidwell Friends or a Georgetown Prep. I would argue, though, that a day school's mission, then, needs to be clear. If that's the goal - to attract and retain families who would otherwise choose a Georgetown Prep - then make that explicit. Then parents know what they are choosing, and the school rejects students who will not rise to those academic challenges - probably (statistically speaking) 20 percent of currently enrolled students. (Clearly, this is not something I'm advocating.)

Meredith Englander Polsky

Must-Read Comment: Do We Ask Jewish Schools To Do The Impossible?

Editor's Note: An anonymous commentor wrote this in response to Meredith Englander Polsky's piece, about how even she, the founder of an organization that fights for the right to a Jewish education for every child, had to pull her own daughter out of Jewish day school. Tomorrow, we'll post her answer to this comment.

As a parent with children in the Jewish day school Meredith is referring to, CESJDS, we have had a very positive experience, even though our kids are also not round pegs going into round holes either. Each parent knows their own child best and I have no doubt about that the frustrations many have expressed here are real.

A complicated question: Do Jewish communal values come into conflict at day schools? Fotolia

Ekev: A Description Of Israel, Where Liturgy Comes Alive

In 1969, when I was hiking with a United Synagogue Youth group through Israel’s Negev desert, I heard the word "afik," used in casual conversation.

Rabbi Michael Levy

The Financial Stress Of Disability: Why Families Need The ABLE Act

According to a 2006 Harvard School of Public Health research study, the cost of raising a child with autism can range from $67,000 to $72,000 per year. Over a lifetime, an autistic person’s care will cost between $1.4 million to $3.1 million.

Frances Victory

JFNA On The ABLE Act: Promoting Inclusion And Independence

The financial strain on individuals with disabilities and their families today is not just a matter of dollars and cents; it’s a matter of planning for tomorrow and the long-term future to ensure their independence and inclusion in their community.

William Daroff

After Struggling With 'Communications' Class, A Boy With Autism Finds Summer Love

At our local middle school, "Communications" is a required course for all seventh graders, including our son, Ben, who has Asperger’s Disorder:

We will explore all the ways human beings communicate with each other, including reading and writing, speaking and listening, as well as non-verbal ways of communicating, such as gestures, visual arts, signs and symbols.  We will also work on research, study, and organizational skills, in order to help you better clarify and express your ideas.

Rabbi Rebecca Schorr

Looking For An Inclusive School Or Shul? Check For The Rosh Pina Certification!

In a small community in Pittsburgh, starting in 1910, there was a shift in mindset.  The Pittsburgh Blind Association started to teach people with visual impairment how to make brooms, an item found in every home, but rarely given much thought.  That year, in Pittsburgh, they thought a lot about brooms and about who would be the best person for the job of broom maker.

Think about what we can do, not what we can't. Fotolia

What Does 'Fair' Mean When One Son Has Down Syndrome?

Our six year-old has been spending a lot of energy on the concept of “fairness,” as many six year-olds do. To him, fairness is about resources, and he spends his time thinking about what’s fair in terms of his share compared with what is allocated to his younger brother, who is three.

Ben Wohl and Julian Wohl

Sometimes You Just Can't Make It Work

Thirteen years ago Temple Beth-El in Somerset County, New Jersey, recognized the need for a special education expert in the religious school and hired me to help build and run a program to meet the needs of children who were not experiencing success in traditional classes. We have developed a multi-layered program with various options and we work to meet every student’s needs. In addition, we strive to ensure that our inclusive practices extend to the synagogue at large. While we have experienced growing pains, especially in our early years, it has been rare for us to be entirely unable meet a family’s needs. The story shared below is only the third time in my tenure that we have had such an experience.

Lisa Friedman
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