Written by Michelle Wolf, this post originally appeared on her blog, Jews With Special Needs
Which comes first, the decision to disclose sensitive personal information, or the fear of stigma that may result from disclosure? This is a question of many people who feel at the margins of the Jewish community, whether for physical/mental illness, sexual orientation, poverty or special needs.
For many Jewish parents raising a child with less severe or “invisible” special needs, there is a strong, inherent urge not to share the child’s challenges with educators, camp directors and youth directors. After all, if the child can “pass” as a typical child, why turn the child’s diagnosis into a “label”, with all the stigma and difference that goes along with that appellation? With our community’s hyper focus on academic and extracurricular success, a Jewish kid who is even a little quirky or who has an artistic bent can feel left out, let alone someone who has a diagnosed learning disability.
In many cases, however, that lack of disclosure can boomerang, and result in the child acting up, getting into trouble, or even in the best case, often unable to keep up academically, and/or socially and the resulting feelings of low self-esteem.
At Matan’s recent inaugural Jewish special education national institute in New York City, 20 congregational school education directors from across the country came together to launch a 15-month program that will enable their schools to better accommodate children with special learning needs. (Read more…)