Six years ago, when Rabbi Jackie Redner was hired as a full-time rabbi at Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services center, she decided to visit the kids in the Nes Gadol program first. Nes Gadol is designed to prepare children with autism for their bar and bat mitzvahs — they learn about Jewish history and religious practice and write speeches about their relationship to Judaism and faith.
A study released by the Foundation for Jewish Camp showed overnight camps are growing increasingly aware of the needs of children with disabilities.
When Ethan Gorin was a toddler, he threw terrible tantrums, spun around in circles and repeatedly opened and shut drawers while counting. He didn’t respond when others called his name, and he was incapable of playing quietly by himself.
Just try asking Connie and Harvey Lapin to recap 44 years as parent activists in the world of autism. In hyperactive tag-team, the couple bursts forth with stories and ideas, only to interrupt themselves and one another with still more anecdotes, ideas and accomplishments.
Gateways: Access to Jewish Education, a Boston-based agency for Jewish special education, is offering eight suggestions from experts for a Chanukah celebration that is child friendly and fully accessible for children with special learning needs:
When David Suissa wonders “If Hamas had the ability to murder thousands of Jews, wouldn’t they?” he is letting stereotypes get in the way of helpful analysis (“Pogroms Interrupted,” Nov. 23). He is also, in effect, arguing that Hamas is not an organization with which peace and order can be reached.
Eliza Wilson’s holy moment in Israel didn’t come at the Western Wall. Sure, the 21-year-old with autism was honored and moved to place a note in the Wall on behalf of the 40 people traveling with her on a mission to learn about Israel’s programs for adults with special needs.
The Foundation for Jewish Camp announced four new camps to be included in its specialty camp incubator designed to engage Jewish campers.
For a parent who has been caring for a child with special needs, it can be jarring to realize that at age 18, the child is considered a legal adult, whether or not he can sign his own name or understand the value of a dollar.
“Keys! Keys!” David Weisbord says as he tugs at his father’s hand, pulling him toward the door.
In a crowded living room in the dilapidated suburbs of Jaffa, the delegates from the Special Needs Study Mission from Los Angeles gathered closer to hear the testimony of an Israeli woman with severe disabilities tell the story of how proper intervention changed her life in countless ways. The program, which is subsidized by the State of Israel, provides Etty S. with home visits from a social worker, an emergency button to contact round-the-clock medical help, and perhaps most importantly, organized excursions with other disabled people in the vicinity.
Raising a child with developmental disabilities has often been compared to an “unplanned journey,” taking you to places you never imagined you would go. After our son, Danny, was diagnosed with global developmental delays at the age of 13 months, I found myself learning a whole new vocabulary, meeting with many medical professionals and special-education teachers and aides.
Most freshmen feel overwhelmed during their first year at college. But for Sarah Selinger, a 19-year-old woman from West Los Angeles, her first semester at California State University, Northridge (CSUN), was almost unbearable.
Daniel Ozer-Ross studies hard. He does his homework. And it’s not enough.
Regarding Julie Gruenbaum Fax’s article “Finding Their Place” (Feb. 24), about 20-somethings with special needs, I want to express my profound disappointment regarding the fact that, once again, there was no mention about the supports and services provided by the Regional Center system.
Tamir Appel scampers to his room to pull out a photo album of his latest trip to visit family in Israel. He sets it on the dining room table, where some of his housemates are gathered to talk about their daily life at the Ryzman Family Group Home for Men in Valley Village, one of three run by the Etta Israel Center, the only Jewish group homes on the West Coast.
A little while ago, Hendel Schwartz got a call from a city bus driver. “Your son walks with God,” the driver told her.
Lauren Levine is settling in with a group of friends apartment to watch “American Idol,” when a look of panic comes over her face. She rummages around, finds her keys and darts out.“I left the hair thing on,” she says when she returns, breathless, from her own apartment downstairs. “I was straightening Jasmine’s hair before we came up here, and I forgot to turn it off. Wow. That was close.” Levine has wide blue eyes accentuated with sparkly eye shadow, and her voice is spiced with a sense of interested wonder.
In synagogue last Friday night, just after her sermon, the rabbi announced she had invited a special guest in honor of Jewish Disabilities Month. The woman next to me leaned over and whispered. “What’s Jewish Disabilities Month?” “That’s for Jews who get B’s in school,” I said.
As her daughter Amy was nearing graduation two years ago, Pattie Earlix was crushed by the thought that her religious education was ending.
" . . . As grandparents, we go through a range of feelings. Some of these are triggered by the child's behavior and how the parents react to it. Grandparents are frightened and upset that their grandchild is experiencing these problems . . . "
The largest recipients of the Jewish Community Foundation's (JCF) Cutting Edge Grants, announced this week and totaling $1.6 million, were three programs promoting Jewish identity and connection with Israel through art, music and community leadership
As soon as they put him on my belly, I knew. I looked at his eyes, and they were a bit puffy, as is normal after a regular delivery, but I knew.
My husband, Mark, said he looked perfect, with all fingers and toes accounted for. I kept asking if he was all right; he was our second child, after all, and I knew he wasn't, because a mother knows.
Mark kept believing everything was OK until he followed the nurses down to the nursery, and they asked for pediatricians to come in. Nurses attended to our first born, Jason -- not doctors.
Lior Liebling davens everywhere: in the backyard, in school and on the swing set. Some congregants at his synagogue, Mishkan Shalom of Mount Arie, Pa., call him the "little rebbe."
"The Zohar tells stories of miracle children who were spiritual geniuses," one synagogue member said. "Well, that's what Lior is."
Lior is the 13-year-old featured in the new documentary, "Praying With Lior," which highlights the bar mitzvah of a Jewish child living with Down syndrome. The character study of this boy tells of how Lior's community successfully integrates him into communal life -- a challenge many Jewish communities face with mentally and physically disabled members.
Club Kung Fu is a martial arts program for Jewish special-needs children ages 9-15 that is designed to improve self-discipline, self-esteem and physical fitness. Right now, about eight boys meet weekly, but the program is expanding, thanks to a Cutting Edge grant from the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles.
The anticipation surrounding Brandon Kaplan's bar mitzvah had been growing for months. I was excited when my invitation for the May 26 celebration arrived; it was an honor to be included among those who would witness Brandon becoming a bar mitzvah.
It's a typical Wednesday afternoon on the bimah at West Los Angeles' Vista Del Mar, a onetime Jewish orphanage that evolved into one of the nation's largest, most comprehensive child services centers. Cantor Steve Puzarne and Neal Katz are in the campus' aging sanctuary as part of Nes Gadol, an effort launched by Vista Del Mar last February in conjunction with The Miracle Project to help children with varying degrees of learning challenges become sons and daughters of the commandment.
With the piecemeal services still failing so many children, it is time for our leaders and our community to take responsibility. The Jewish community of Los Angeles needs a Jewish special education school.
The city of Calabasas is preparing a play area where the thousands of special-needs children living in the Conejo and West San Fernando valleys can play alongside all children their age. Brandon's Village, the area's first universally accessible handicapped playground, is scheduled to open on Oct. 28 at Gates Canyon Park on Thousand Oaks Boulevard, just east of Las Virgenes Road.
For several weeks, I had been visiting Nathan, a 6-year-old boy diagnosed with autism. We had been brought together through the Conejo Valley Friendship Circle, an organization that extends warmth to families in the community that have children with special needs.
When parents gather for monthly meetings of Ozreinu, a spiritual support group for families with special-needs children, the first thing they do is check in.
Mark Worland -- six-foot-something, dressed in tight black and skinhead bald -- grabs Navid by the arm.
"Come with me!" he barks.
"No!" screams Navid, barely 5-feet tall.
Navid throws himself on his back, locks the bottom of his feet to Worland's knees, and shields his face and head from Worland's flailing fists.
"Great job," says Worland, a self-defense specialist, shaking Navid's hand and helping him up, as Navid's friends applaud.
This self-defense class is part of a repertoire of life skills that Navid and his peers are learning at Independent Living Skills, a summer program for developmentally disabled adults run by Etta Israel Center, a mid-Wilshire nonprofit for people with special needs.
For most parents, preparing a child for a bar or bat mitzvah is just another of many coming-of-age stresses. But for parents whose children have special needs, the stress can be almost unbearable. Yet arranging b'nai mitzvah ceremonies for such children are not impossible, with a little love and support.
Margie Kommer, whose son, Max, was diagnosed with dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), understands the loss of face some parents feel.
"It's very hard to go to a bar or bat mitzvah and see these shining stars, and see your own children struggling," she said.
And, naturally, children compare themselves to their peers. They can become so disheartened that they give up.
When the Los Angeles Unified School District broke for the recent winter vacation, a group of nine 10-year-old boys gathered in the Jewish Educational Movement in Beverly Hills for a mid-winter camp called, Kol Hanearim ("all the children"). The public school students were primarily from observant homes, and all have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD).
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn't know it, but his recent gesture to reverse planned cuts for the disabled was the greatest memorial tribute to my brother, Danny. This week, we observed Danny's shloshim, the traditional 30 days after the death of a loved one.
When Georgia Freedman-Harvey's son was born with a rare genetic disorder, she and her husband discovered "the invisibility factor" for Jewish children with special needs.
This change has been devastating for the families of Jewish children with special needs.
Two recent conferences held in the Jewish community -- one on autism, the other on a wide scope of disabilities -- demonstrated the difficulties of reconciling research and reality when it comes to helping individuals with special needs.