You know those big signs on Route 4, near Riverside Square in Hackensack?
The big electronic billboards, the ones that usually show images from Holy Name Medical Center, but include some pictures of kids in its regular rotations? One happy-looking kid at a time, standing next to huge letters spelling out My Challenges Don’t Define Me, pointing to a sign with a self-definition? A sign saying I Am Smart, for example. Or Beautiful. Or Hard-Working. Or Cool.
Imagine that you see a small group of students working with an art teacher, concentrating, creating, learning.
Add the understanding that these children have developmental disabilities, and that the art teacher is in fact an art therapist. Be sure, though, that when you add this knowledge, you do not — because you should not — let it detract from the clear truth that there is joy in this learning, and learning in this joy.
For at least 25 years now, Joseph Freedland of Fair Lawn has been hiring people with special needs to help in the production and packaging of shower curtains and hospital curtains at Hospi-Tel in East Orange.
The family business, founded by his father and uncle and now owned by his brother David, has eight to 10 such people working in the factory at any given time. Two of them have been with the company 20-plus years.
It’s fair to say that the Sinai Schools both benefited from and contributed to the societal changes that started to nibble away at some of the stigma surrounding special education. Children who could not keep up academically or behaviorally with their peers used to be seen as embarrassments to their parents, burdens to their families, bars to the marriageability of their siblings.
In last week’s paper, my family enjoyed the final article in “A Season of SINAI Stories,” an uplifting piece by Esther and Jacob Schlanger, who accompanied their daughter Tamar to the marriage canopy in 2017. Tamar, who married Chaim—both SINAI alumni—famously gave new meaning to the term “Saw you at SINAI.”
As all sorts of nonprofit institutions — local, national, and international, Jewish and non-Jewish — try to figure out how to raise the money that they need to keep going, many of them have done a great deal of thinking about how best to explain who they are, what their mission is, and in general what drives them.
Our weekly parenting group meeting was rolling along as it usually did---chit-chat, joking, complaining, noshing---when my phone rang, and I immediately excused myself to speak in private. It was our daughter Racheli’s genetic counselor, and she had news that changed everything for us in an instant.
When people talk about something as having a lot of moving parts, unless they’re actually talking about a piece of machinery, usually they’re being metaphoric.
When you’re talking about a school, though it’s entirely literal. Students rarely sit still, and their teachers rush to keep up with them.
If I told you that my friend FaceTimes me when she’s bored and fills me in on her day, you might think she’s like any other phone-loving teenager. If I said she has super trendy glasses and bangs I wish I could pull off, you might wonder if she’s interested in fashion. If I explained that we see each other every week, and love hanging out, you might ask if we go to school together.
But from what I told you, I don’t think you would guess that my friend has Down Syndrome.