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The past few weeks have been busy for my children and all their peers involved in the Bnei Akiva Youth Movement. My kids eagerly wait for Chodesh Irgun - the month when the leadership transitions to the next group of 15 year old madrichim. The whole month is defined by fun activities and the culmination of this excitement and sleep deprivation is a big weekend that goes from Thursday night to Sunday morning.
Our local Bnei Akiva recently started a group for people with special needs called “Shevet Yuvalim” and Caila has loved the opportunity to be part of the action. She loves telling everyone that she attends Bnei Akiva. For Caila this has been one of the few times that she has truly felt part of something bigger.
As I have often described in my blogs and Facebook posts, the path to including a child with special needs is a relentless uphill battle. While Caila was having fun Thursday night, Gavin and I were overwhelmed with the stress of dealing with a situation that was threatening to disrupt any progress we had made in inclusion in the school system. My Friday morning started with an 8am meeting with parents from the school trying to deal with the inclusion challenges at the school. Saturday morning we visited the Bnei Akiva center where the kids meet. I had this surreal moment standing with the other parents in the room for Shevet Yuvalim. I realized I was the member of a parent-of-a-special-needs-child club. A club that I never wanted to be in. I felt overwhelmed.
When Saturday night came along we were getting ready to see the show where each of the groups did a performance for the parents, I had this nagging feeling that I just wished I did not have to see Caila's show. She was very excited to show off the dance she had learned. Her 15 year old brother and some of his close friends are all her group leaders. There was no escaping and I was dreading feeling part of the club that I did not want to part of yet again. This time however it would be in front of 400 kids and all their parents.
It was planned that Shevet Yuvalim would be the first group to perform. As the kids went on stage all the other kids started cheering and chanting the name of their group. After they completed their show the chanting and cheering resumed to a resounding crescendo. Everyone was captivated by the warmth and spirit of support for this group of special kids. Shevet Yuvalim felt the overwhelming love and felt included. It was a pivotal moment in the community for adults and kids alike. It was truly emotional. It made me think of the now ubiquitous hash tag that has come to embody sexual harassment - #metoo and that perhaps we could also start a different kind of movement and call it #idid. Imagine a world of inclusion and acceptance.
#idid smile at someone different
#idid think of how I could make the world more inclusive
#idid spoke to my children about people with differences
#idid ask my child's school to run a program teaching my kids sensitivity to inclusion
#idid invite someone over who would otherwise not have had a play date
#idid raise the issue of physical accessibility in my synagogue
#idid read articles and educated myself on issues concerning special needs
#idid ask my HR manager at work to share the companies policies on inclusion, diversity and accessibility
#idid read my kids a book to help them understand how to interact with people with special needs
#idid lobby my politicians to make work place inclusion part of their agenda
#idid my little bit to make the world a better place
Please share #idid