Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

31 for 21 - beauty, again

Goes well with this post:


31 for 21 - "disability", again

And again, another article pointing out that "disability" is a social construct.  We all have strengths and weaknesses, and some of those get labeled a "disability" while others do not.  Which weaknesses are socially stigmatized is dependent on the social context.  A few hundred years ago, my severe nearsightedness would have been a debilitating disability, since effective optometry was not generally available.  At the same time, "learning disabilities" did not really exist, since there was not a universal expectation of literacy and schooling.  Someone who did not function well in an academic environment simply pursued other endeavors which were better suited to his/her strengths.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

31 for 21 - Summer Camp Inclusion

Many Jewish organizations have been slow to take up the cause of special needs inclusion, especially intellectual/developmental special needs.  Jewish culture places a high value on intellectual achievement, and seems to regard intellectual disability as a failing, either on the part of the child, or his/her parents. 

As this article points out in the introduction, this is antithetical to Jewish liturgy.  Moses himself had a speech impediment, and needed Aaron's assistance to take his prophetic message to the Pharaoh, as well as to the Jewish people.  If anything, this is a model of inclusion at work: Moses was provided with the necessary accommodations which allowed his leadership to shine.

As a counselor at the Jewish summer camp Camp Ramah, the author of the article discovered that sharing each camper's challenges was empowering for all, as both typical and disabled campers realized that we are not defined or limited by our challenges.  This echoes the insight that the mom in yesterday's post made when talking with her children.  We all have our unique strengths and challenges.  Society arbitrarily labels some of these "disabilities", but these are artificial constructs, not facts of reality.  The reality, which we aspire to see reflected in society, is that our value is in our common humanity and in the way we treat each other.

31 for 21 - Talking with children

Children have very few prejudices (not having had a chance to learn too many yet), and have no filter or guile about those prejudices which they have absorbed.  In talking with children, we can learn what we have inadvertently taught them, for good or bad.  Such conversations are excellent mirrors to hold up to ourselves.  Perhaps we think nothing of using foul language, until we hear it echoed from the mouths of our offspring. Or we don't realize ways in which we stereotype others, until our filter-free kiddos say something that makes us cringe.  Conversely, how lovely it is when our children think it completely natural to speak politely, offer sincere compliments, and share freely, because this is the behavior they see modeled in the home.


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