Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Presume Competence

This article is well on the way to becoming viral.  The vision of what's possible when we presume competence is glorious in its brilliance.  Read the article.  Support the vision.  Go.

This image startled me when I read the article a second time:
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100 years ago, all of the individuals in this picture would be ineligible to benefit from a college education, whether due to gender, race, or disability.  All would be considered inferior, incompetent, undeserving.

How much richer our world is when we presume competence.

Friday, February 27, 2015

JDAM - What is inclusion?

In the 70's and 80's, the buzzword was "mainstreaming".  Children with disabilities would be placed in "mainstream" classes instead of in isolated "SPED" rooms.  In the 90's and 00's, awareness developed that mainstreaming is not enough -- we must not simply place children with diverse needs among their peers, but they must be actively included in order to have their needs met.  A new alphabet soup was created, from IEP's (Individual Education Plans) to FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education) and LRE (Least Restrictive Environment), schools grapple with how to serve all children, both academically and socially.

As this mother points out, however, true inclusion is not about procedure, but about expectations.  If a student is seen as deficient, through the lens of a diagnosis, no service or classroom environment will allow him or her to thrive. "Presuming competence" is the key to enabling all students to set, meet, and exceed high levels of performance in all areas.

Jewish tradition has a mixed record on this.  On the one hand, the Jewish emphasis on education creates an environment where all children are held to high expectations.  On the other hand, children who struggle with traditional educational frameworks suffer feelings of shame and failure.  Religious education often lags behind secular education in providing appropriate differentiation for different learning styles.  Creating true inclusion for all, children and adults with all abilities, is a challenge for our communities today.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

JDAM - Driving in snow

New England is experiencing record snowfall this month, topping 100 inches.  As I write, the blizzard is raging outside, dumping an additional foot plus on top of the several feet already on the ground from the last 4 or 5 storms within a few weeks.

In a recent Facebook conversation about our collective Post Traumatic Snow Disorder, a friend was extolling the virtues of snow tires.  I responded:

 I like driving in snow. Without snow tires. It forces me to actually slow down, and fully let go of any notion of hurry. I slow at yellow lights, let others go first at intersections, and stop for the trudging pedestrians making their way through the snow banks. It becomes almost Zen-like. I think that people driving SUV's with snow tires at full normal speed are making things more dangerous for others.

Yesterday, as I was driving in an inch or two of slippery stuff, it occurred to me that this description is similar to the way many parents of developmentally delayed children describe their parenting journey.  Slowing down and ignoring other people's timetables can be liberating.  The joy these parents describe in celebrating their children's milestones -- whenever they are reached -- is not unlike the inner peace I experience when my car whispers along the winter wonderland, knowing that the safety I create for myself and my passengers by slowing down also creates a safe place for other vehicles and pedestrians.

It reminds me that when I am driving my "SUV's with snow tires" -- my oh-so-brilliant children (dare I say, "special snowflakes"..?) -- that I should likewise take the time to both enjoy the journey and make sure that my passage in the world is a positive experience for others, as well.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

JDAM - Bat Mitzvah Inclusion

Although the details are not specified in the article, I am pretty sure that this is a kid in my congregation:


There is certainly much more to do, but it is good to see earnest effort and collaboration to make such progress happen.


Monday, February 2, 2015

JDAM - Inaction

Jews are often the "canary in the coalmine".  Regimes which oppress the Jews with no opposition frequently proceed to expand the oppression to other groups.  All too often, those other groups ignore this trend until it is too late.  Because of this, Jews tend to be more aware of social injustice are frequently at the forefront of organizations and movements which resist it.

This blog post connects the experience of German gentiles during the Holocaust to the general human tendency to ignore suffering until it hits close to home.   Like Jews, people with disabilities are often easy targets for marginalization and oppression.  Are we going to pretend we can't hear the train?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Calling out ableism

In the course of conversations, I occasionally get the opportunity to call out examples of casual able-ism.  Usually, when this happens, the other person will apologize and move on.  Yay!

In a recent conversation on Facebook, however, I came across someone who described a public personality as:

I just think he doesn't care one way or the other. He goes with whatever way the wind blows. Frankly, I think he is somewhere on the spectrum.

To which I responded:

Why did you use "on the spectrum" as a slur..?

The response showed a lack of understanding as to what I meant:

I didn't. I used it quite seriously. He seems disconnected. His affect is off. Galit, I am disturbed you drew the wrong conclusion about me.

So I explained:

Autism and ASD are not equivalent to apathy ("I just think he doesn't care one way or the other.") Nor do people on the spectrum typically "go with whatever way the wind blows."

Now the other person got really upset:

Galit, you know nothing about me and you are making slurs against ME. Go away.

Whoa!  Did I say anything that warranted that?  Did I say anything about the person I was conversing with?  Well, I tried to calm things down:

 I didn't claim to know anything about you, nor did I slur you. I do know something about autism. I understand that you might have made the statement you did out of a common misconception about the nature of autism. I am sorry if I touched a raw nerve for you with my comments. There is much prejudice around disability, even today, and I try to point it out when I see it come up in casual conversation. I don't want to hijack the thread, that's not what it is about. Peace.

Alas, peace was not to be had:

Galit, you lectured me. You made assumptions about me. And you are still doing so. Please go away.


Was I off base?  What do you think was going on?
(Obviously, I did not persist at this point, as any further attempts seemed pointless.)

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