As a doctoral candidate in developmental psychology doing research on Jewish parents of children with autism, I have found that many mothers and fathers interpret their child’s diagnosis in relation to God.
Since I shared on this blog my family’s decision to withdraw our daughter Lucy from the local Jewish day school, I have been inundated with comments, Facebook posts, emails and phone calls. The majority of these have been parents sharing their own stories about why their child could not receive a Jewish education and reliving that heartbreak, whether it was last year or 20 years ago.
In 19 days, my daughter will complete her last year of Jewish day school. I had many visions in my mind for this moment: Seeing her in a cap and gown with friends she’s known since kindergarten; finding the picture of her eating ice cream with a little boy in first grade and placing it next to their prom picture; feeling pride that although we made sacrifices, my husband and I provided a solid Jewish education to our child.
And some of those visions may have become reality, if not for the fact that Lucy will turn seven just before her last day at Jewish day school. She is completing first grade, not 12th.
Ilyse loves singing Hebrew songs that she learned at Camp Ramah in New England. She loves watching the camp video where she can relive her summer memories as an Amitzim (special needs) camper, laughing with all her friends. That sense of Jewish connection and belonging that Ilyse feels at camp is exactly what we, as her mother and older sister, dream of finding for her in her school year and year-round in her adult life. Yesterday, Ilyse turned twenty. She has Down Syndrome.
It was no ordinary marriage proposal. Rotem Langer is a 31-year-old disabled veteran of the Israeli army whose speech was affected by his injuries. “Sometimes I forget words,” says Rotem. “I didn’t want that to happen when I proposed to Shelly.”
Rabbi Chanina taught, "I have learned much from my teachers. I have learned more from my colleagues than my teachers. But I have learned more from my students than from all of them." (Babylonian Talmud, Taanit, 7a)