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.

An Aspergers-Friendly Seder

Passover has long been a challenging time of year for our family. Last year, in a piece about difficulties our family has attending seder, I wrote this:
Each year we hope that it will be better. That a year of further maturation and therapies will make it easier on Ben. And, therefore, for me too.

This year, however, we decided that hoping was not enough.

The rabbi's seder table. Courtesy of Rabbi Rebecca Schorr

Mission Accomplished: An Adjustable Torah Reading Table

Editor's Note: When Paula Fox first wrote for the New Normal, her tale of learning to read Torah only to struggle to reach the reading table inspired us to create the Bima Project. The idea was that we would help an interested synagogue create a more fully accessible bima that included an adjustable table. Paula and the folks in her shul moved rapidly toward this goal on their own and we are now thrilled to share their creative solution.

I learned to read Torah a year ago and now have read three times at Adath Jesurun Congregation in Minnetonka, Minnesota. As a wheelchair user, I was sitting too low to see the Torah on the regular Torah reading table. 

Paula Fox reading Torah. Courtesy of Paula Fox

Autism, Vacations and Royal Caribbean: New Travel Possibilities for Families

As we approach the summer, many families are starting to make plans for camp, trips or cruises. Some parents of children with autism may feel as though it would be impossible to take a vacation with their son or daughter because of the child’s difficulty in behavior and communication and inflexibility in new situations (a characteristic of autism).

I recently came across a newspaper article that talked about Royal Caribbean’s first autism-friendly cruise line.

Dr. Frances Victory

Send The New Normal Your Accessibility Complaints And Kudos!

Recently, we heard from  a New Normal reader who has a mobility impairment. She told us that she had a difficult time accessing the 92nd Street Y, the iconic Jewish cultural institution in New York City because there was no pop-up button on the main door, intercom to ask for help and the security guard inside the building was unresponsive.

We reached out to the Y, which replied quickly and responded to her concerns.

Accessibility

At Seder, Celebrating 'Freedom To' Participate And 'Freedom From' Oppression

This week, as many of us sat down to enjoy our Seders with friends and family, I was very aware of two types of freedom that we celebrate at the Seder: “freedom from” and “freedom to.” We celebrate the “freedom from” slavery and oppression. We re-enact this form of freedom as we eat bitter herbs and dip our greens into salt water. We celebrate the “freedom to” as we conduct our own Seder experience. Each home leads its own Seder without benefit of Rabbi or Hazzan. Each person, young or old, has a part to fulfill at the table. 

Rabbi Daniel Grossman

Can Autism Acceptance and Autism Recovery Coexist?

Editor's Note: As part of a dialogue about autism and our community during Autism Awareness Month, we are sharing Educator Lisa Friedman's blog about autism advocacy, acceptance and recovery. It was originally featured on Think Inclusive. Please share your comments below.

In January, I wrote a blog about a poet and self-advocate named Scott Lentine, who has autism. I continue to be impressed by self-advocates who use the power of their words to inspire others to greater levels of understanding. As a blogger, I can relate. I write to inspire, motivate and support others on the journey toward inclusion.

In learning about him, however, I began to grapple with the question of whether there's a tension between the concepts of autism acceptance and autism recovery, and now I'd like to share that question with the New Normal community.

Lisa Friedman

Passover’s Call to Action—Escape from the Slavery of Self-Imposed Limitations

At the Passover Seder, we recall the Israelites’ redemption from Egyptian slavery.  It is an appropriate time to examine the link between Egyptian slavery and beliefs that can keep us in bondage.

The “Egypt Within”

The Hebrew word for Egypt, “Mitzrayim,” closely resembles the Hebrew word “maytzarim,”—boundaries, constraints, narrow and confining spaces. None of us is physically enslaved, but some of us experience “the Egypt within,” believing that we are trapped by our disability, confined to “narrow spaces,” from which we cannot escape to live fulfilling lives. 

Rabbi Michael Levy

Landmark Settlement for Employment of People with Disabilities

Editor's Note: Shelley Cohen's blog published today is very timely, as the Justice Department announced a landmark agreement with the State of Rhode Island yesterday that will liberate people with disabilities from sheltered workshops. Read more about this agreement in The New York Times.

The Justice Department announced today that it has entered into the nation’s first statewide settlement agreement vindicating the civil rights of individuals with disabilities who are unnecessarily segregated in sheltered workshops and facility-based day programs. 

Four Questions, Four Answers: Passover and Children with Sensory Processing Differences

For children who have sensory processing differences, Passover can be a very challenging holiday. Sensory integration refers to how our our minds and bodies continuously process, filter and respond to information from our surroundings in order to pay attention, behave in a flexible manner and interact with others.

The four questions may look slightly different under the circumstances ….
Why do I have to sit for such a long time?  Why is everyone singing way too loud? Why do these foods smell so awful? Why can’t I just eat what I want?

Jaime Bassman

My Experience: Autism And Judaism

Like all human beings my unique personal identity is composed of many facets. I am a woman. I am a mother. I am a daughter and a wife, a Democrat, a citizen of the United States, a writer and a former attorney. I am also an autistic Jew. I am proud to be all of the above. I like who I am. There are times, though, when much to my sadness, it is not easy to be both autistic and Jewish. While my religion places great value on empathy and inclusiveness, not all those who practice it do. While my people have risked their lives to stand in solidarity with others who have been disenfranchised, there have been times when we have neglected to stand in support of one another.

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