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.

From Darkness To Light: Opportunities For People With Disabilities

When I was a little girl I would dream about what other little Jewish girls would dream about. I played house with my dolls and I would dream about growing up, getting married and having children. But as I got older – as a 12-13 year old – I got stuck in an institution and that was society’s way of telling me that my dreams were not realistic.

Society, back then in the 1960s, was very different than it is today. To lock someone away in a prison-like environment because they’re mentally challenged was common back then.  It was horrible. Places like that don’t exist anymore, Baruch Hashem.

Phyllis Lit

Exciting New Initiative For Jewish PreSchoolers With Special Needs

Editor's Note: We were thrilled that Alison Auderieth Lobron's blog on "The New Normal" helped her make an incredible connection and launch an exciting new pilot program for Jewish preschoolers!

This blog originally appeared on The View Through Autism Glasses.

For the last few years, I’ve been teaching a Social Pragmatics curriculum at the small, family-run preschool in our neighborhood. For the first couple of years, it was a great job. S was a student there, and our expectation was that G would soon follow. I was teaching about social development, emotional regulation and solving problems with friends … all while using great children’s books to support the lessons. Life was good.

Eventually, S graduated preschool and moved on to elementary. Because of G’s special needs, he only attended the neighborhood school for 2 months.

The author and her family. Courtesy of Alison Lobron

Ruderman Foundation Calls On CNN To Apologize For Anchor's Disparaging Tweet

Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation and a national leader on disability inclusion issues, has called on CNN to apologize for a derogatory remark toward people with disabilities made by CNN anchorman Jim Clancy.

In a bizarre Twitter exchange, CNN Anchor Jim Clancy responded to a critical Tweet with “Get a grip, junior. It’s my Friday night. You and the Hasbara team need to pick on some cripple on the edge of the herd.”

Courtesy of The Ruderman Family Foundation

People With Disabilities (And Their Families) Have Dreams, Too

When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his inspiring “I have a Dream” speech in August, 1963 the civil rights movement for people of color had come of age.  I have listened to recordings of the speech too many times to count.  It inspires every time.  And it is emblazoned on our collective psyche. We all know the story of Rosa Parks, an African-American woman who refused, in 1955, to give up her seat on a public bus and move to the back so that a white person would be able to sit where she had been sitting.

Parents: 5 Tips For A Better New Year

With the start of a new secular year, many parents of children with autism may be thinking about their New Year resolutions. Here are some tips to make 2015 an amazing year:

1. Organization: Many parents of children with autism feel overwhelmed due to having to maintain a large amount of paperwork.

Dr. Frances Victory

How Sarah Palin Killed My New Year's Buzz

My 2015 was off to a great start. I’d made some time the week before to reflect on my goals for the new year and managed to take some action steps to making them happen. My sister-in-law graciously offered to babysit our kids on New Years Eve and my husband and I enjoyed one of the best dinners out we’ve had in some time. On New Years Day, we took our children out to experience the Mummers Parade, a loud, overstimulating Philadelphia tradition that my son, who has autism, not only managed but really enjoyed.

But then the buzz kill came.

The author's son walking his dog. Courtesy of Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer

A Camp, A Bar Mitzvah And A Family's Respite

They say that it takes a village to raise a child.  I say that it takes a village… and a synagogue or three, an edah (Amitzim) and a family camp (Ohr Lanu) at Machaneh Ramah and a loving, supportive family.

On Sunday, October 12, 2014, my son, Jacob Gruen, became a Bar Mitzvah at age 13 at Adat Ari El in Valley Village, CA.  He led the Sh’ma, received his talit and blessed it, carried the torah, had an aliyah and read the torah, marched with a lulav and an etrog and said the Kiddush. He also sang a number of songs, including a solo of Adamah B'Shamayim (which he first learned at Camp Ramah) with his Kolot Tikvah choir led by Cantor Michael Stein of Temple Aliyah.  To many, this would not seem extraordinary.  However, Jacob has autism, which manifests in him as moderate speech and social deficits and academic delays.

How Children View Disability: A Refreshing Perspective

While I waited to donate blood at my local firehouse, I was introduced to a friend’s five-year-old daughter.  I covered my face and said “I’m shy.”

Israeli Yeshiva Starts Program For Students With Autism

Yeshivat Maale Gilboa, a popular destination for study for both American students on their gap year between high school and college and Israeli students post-army service, has created a program for young people who have Asperger Syndrome and may not be able to study in a traditional yeshiva setting.

President Obama Signs the ABLE Act

President Obama on Friday signed into law the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act which will allow families with children with disabilities to save for college and other expenses in tax-deferred accounts. The legislation was co-sponsored by Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Richard Burr (R-NC).

The ABLE Act, first introduced in 2008, amends the Internal Revenue Service Code to allow use of tax-free savings accounts for individuals with disabilities. Families will be allowed to use the funds in the savings accounts to cover education, housing, medical and transportation expenses, among others.

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