In my role as an Education Director of a synagogue’s Hebrew school, I have the good fortune to be able to use my skills to develop programs that enable students of all abilities to learn and thrive in a religious school setting. As an advocate of inclusion, I help guide my community to ensure that everyone has equal opportunities to participate and find meaning through all aspects of synagogue life. Yet, not all synagogues have a Jewish Special Educator. Not all synagogues have a professional who advocates for inclusion. What can parents of children with disabilities do to ensure that their children are fully included in Hebrew school?
First and foremost, open and supportive communication is essential for a successful Jewish Hebrew school experience for any child, but especially those with special learning needs. Be forthcoming about your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Do not assume that the school will turn you away or will not be able to accommodate your child’s needs. Share your child’s IEP, successful strategies from home and other information that will make it easier for your child to be successful. I am not suggesting that this is a magic bullet. There may be bumps and disappointments along the way. But without the willingness to have the conversations, you will never know what is possible.
Here are some guiding principles to start the conversation:
- Students with special learning needs and disabilities CAN learn Hebrew.
- Special Education (or inclusion) DOES NOT hold back the “other” students.
- Negative behavior can ruin a whole class.
- It is reasonable to ask for a bar/bat mitzvah experience that is tailored to your child’s needs.
Strong relationships are key. Communication is necessary. Myths and misconceptions are perpetuated by a lack of understanding; but when we join in conversation with real-life examples and hands-on experiences, attitudes can change, and inclusion will be possible.
Read the entire post at Kveller.com.