Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Jewish Disability Awareness Month bookgroup meeting

I really wanted to post about this earlier.  Nearly 2 weeks ago I attended a meeting of a Jewish Disability Awareness Month book group.  My rabbi told me about it the night before!  There were about 10 people there, most of whom were either parents or educators of children with special needs.  When I arrived they were having a phone conference with Elaine Hall, the author of Now I See the Moon, an autobiographical account of her life with her autistic son, who was adopted as a toddler from Russia. He is also the protagonist of "Autism: The Musical".  Although autism is very different from Down syndrome, I have a feeling that in the next few decades we will see a revolution in our understanding of autism and the ability of autistic individuals to function in society, as has happened (and continues to happen!) with Down syndrome.  Just as long as they don't identify the "autism gene" and start aborting affected children....  Ugh.

Later, we discussed the book and movie Front of the Class by Brad Cohen, who has Tourette's Syndrome. It was a great discussion!  He is an awesome well-adjusted guy who doesn't let his disability get in his way.  Even as a middle-school teacher, he tells his students on the first day of class, "This is my condition, this is what happens, it's no big deal, now open your books to page 1."  And the kids learn to see beyond his tics and absolutely adore him!

I found it interesting in conversations with parents, that when the first or second child is born with a disability, the difficulties of managing it seem to loom a lot larger, and they are more reluctant to have another.  While in larger families, the disabled child is more likely to be accepted into the routine.  This seems to me an extension of what I have observed in family size situations in general.  An only child is typically obsessed over by the parents, showered with every enrichment opportunity.  A second child still gets a lot, but often feels "cheated" out of what the first got....  While in larger families, there is a mellowing out, and an understanding that there are intangibles which are not measured in hours of after-school activities, electronic gadgetry and trips to Disney World.  Of course kids (and adults) still want these special treats, but at some point the relationships between the siblings takes over and creates a life of its own.  When your kids are mad at you and reach for each other for comfort, that is actually really special.

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