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Special Needs and the Jewish Community

Meredith Polsky

Written by Leah Krakinowski
Originally published as the cover story in the New Jersey Jewish Standard, February 17, 2012

More than 13.5 million children under the age of 18 in the United States have special health care needs, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That translates into nearly one in every five households with at least one child requiring costly specialized education, medical care and related services.

These children’s needs may range from such chronic medical illnesses as diabetes or cerebral palsy, to such emotional or behavioral health problems as autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), sensory impairments, or learning disabilities.

The ratio of special-needs children in Jewish households is likely no higher than the national average. However, the financial stakes and personal sacrifices can be far greater for parents wrestling with ways to provide their children with a suitable educational and social environment within a Jewish communal framework.

In effect, Jewish parents of special-needs children often face a trifecta of battles: with school districts, health insurance companies, and their own ability to pay yeshivah or day school tuitions. (Read more…)

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