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Apr 11 2013

Why I Wouldn’t Let My Son be Labeled Special Needs

By at 2:37 pm

kindergarten boy with crayonMy oldest son didn’t really talk until he was almost 3. He said a couple of words, like “ite” for “light” and the requisite “Mama” and “Dada,” but he didn’t string them together into sentences, which he should have been doing by then. He also didn’t point at things. He just went and got what he needed himself. (I thought it was a good thing, honestly.)

He had an abnormally large head (it was literally off the charts when the doctor tracked it), and he could stand for up to 20 minutes at a time, just watching a leaf blow in the wind. Based on all of the above–and from 5,000 miles away in California, mind you–my mother diagnosed him as autistic. I brushed it off. But, then, our pediatrician suggested we get him checked out, too. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 14 2013

How I Prepare My Autistic Son for Passover

By at 9:54 am
grilled cheese

No grilled cheese for eight days?

Every year around this time I come down with an acute form of memory loss. I call it Passover Brain. With just two weeks to go before the first Seder, the panic sets in and suddenly it’s as if I’m observing the holiday for the very first time.

Where did I store the seder plate? How do I get those crumbs out from way underneath the oven? Does anyone make haroset safe for my nut-allergic kids? And why–why–is the only thing in my “Pesach” folder a 3-year-old shopping list? Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 27 2013

How Do I Explain Special Needs to My Kids?

By at 2:19 pm

questions chalkboardI don’t usually consult other people as to what I should say in a given situation. But sometimes, bereft of a frame of reference, I find I need help–and I’m turning to you.

I’m a mom of four kids. While none of them have special needs, I want to be sensitive to those who do–and to parents of special needs kids. And that’s why I’m asking for your advice.

I would never want to be a party to making anyone feel awkward or excluded, but I find that there are situations that arise sometimes where I want to make sure that I am doing the right thing, and am asking for your help. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 13 2013

For My Son on the Autistic Spectrum, Where Does He Fit into the Jewish Community?

By at 9:45 am
jewish day school

Jewish day school. Photo credit: Clive Moss

As part of our month-long series dedicated to Jewish Disability Awareness Month, Benay shares her hopes and concerns about her son’s future Jewish education.

I watch my 5-year-old at Jr. Congregation on Shabbat, and I am amazed. Here, in a small room with children, songs, and a teacher he knows and loves, he is comfortable and in his element. He participates, and more than that, he wants to be a leader, a teacher, and a student. He runs onto the bimah in the sanctuary for Adon Olam, and he thinks he’s leading the congregation.

Witnessing my son’s emphatic participation is huge. He was first diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum at 2 years old. Thanks to my husband and sisters, who insisted he be evaluated on the early side, he has benefited from four years of intensive therapy with dedicated and talented therapists and teachers and has made astounding strides. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 6 2013

8 Tips for Choosing a Hebrew School for Children with Special Needs

By at 1:24 pm

hebrew schoolWhen your child has special learning needs–or any kind of physical, emotional, or behavioral challenge that impacts learning–finding a suitable religious education can be a challenge.

For the 85% of us who look towards an afternoon or Sunday Hebrew School, particular challenges may arise. First of all, show us a child for whom 4:00 p.m.–after a full day of a structured secular school environment–is an optimum time for learning, and we’ll show you a dozen more for whom it’s not. At 4:00 p.m., most children exhibit some type of “special learning need.” For those with an actual diagnosis, though, these tips may come in especially handy:  Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 9 2013

Special Education Speed Dating

By at 9:43 am

I’ve heard it said that you don’t know how good you’ve got something until it’s gone. This is a story about the opposite. How I didn’t know how lacking something was until I left.

As the Yiddish saying goes, change your location, change your luck.

When we picked up and moved more than three thousand miles away from our home in order for me to stay home full-time and be a better care giver to our son, who is on the autistic spectrum, I anticipated many positive changes. The most pleasant surprise, however, has been the school system. I now realize, with that ever-clear hindsight, that our old school system was lacking. Sorely lacking. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 11 2012

Hanukkah Activities for Kids with Special Needs

By at 2:30 pm

special ed hanukkahHanukkah is well into the swing of things, but it’s important to remember that celebrating Hanukkah in a meaningful way isn’t always easy for families who have kids with special needs.

Gateways: Access to Jewish Education is an agency for Jewish special education, and they’ve compiled a great list of eight tips for an accessible, child-friendly Hanukkah for all families. From using strong visuals to supplement the Hanukkah blessings to Hanukkah-themed games that can also help develop social skills, these tips come from professionals in the field and can be easily applied to most family celebrations. Check out the tips here on Jewish Boston, and let us know if you have any great tips to add in the comments below. Happy Hanukkah to all!

Dec 7 2012

What We Learned From Dr. Wendy Mogel

By at 11:09 am

Yesterday, as part of the Kveller Book Club, we had an awesome Twitter chat with Dr. Wendy Mogel, author of The Blessing of a Skinned Knee and The Blessing of a B Minus, both parenting books that are well-loved among many in our community.

She had a lot of words of wisdom for us, and since we know not everyone was able to join us yesterday, we thought we’d provide a quick recap: Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 19 2012

Traveling and Asperger’s Syndrome Don’t Always Go Together

By at 2:02 pm

airplane flying through the skyIn about one month’s time, God-willing, my newest niece or nephew is scheduled to make an initial appearance in Dallas, TX. The following week, family from all over the country will descend on the Lone-Star State in order to welcome him or her into our family and into our covenantal people. I, however, will be making the trip alone. And it saddens me.

Different families have different approaches, I have discovered, when it comes to family simchas. As far as my family goes, presence at a family celebration, be it a college graduation or a baby naming, is de rigueur. Even when it involves cross-country flights. Distance was never considered a barrier to attendance. Neither, to the best of my knowledge, were finances. Somehow there was always a way for the family to be together.

Which is why my decision to travel solo next month is a painful one. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 7 2012

Women Who Do it All: Rabbi Ilana Garber’s Work/Life Balance

By at 9:55 am

ilana garberRabbi Ilana Garber is the associate rabbi of Beth El Temple in West Hartford, Connecticut. She serves on a professional advisory committee for the Hebrew Health Care Home Health and Hospice program and as co-chair of the Rabbinical Assembly Women’s Committee. Rabbi Garber was kind enough to share her experience with work/life balance with us for our month-long series on Women, Work & Money.

Who is in your family?

I have been married for five years to a wonderful man who is a professional musician. We have two sons, a 3-year-old, Noam, and a 19-month-old, Yaron. (You can read Yaron’s story here.)

What’s your work schedule? Read the rest of this entry →

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