Inclusion@BJ is an initiative that proactively ensures that BJ families are welcome in every way by accommodating the visible and invisible special needs of everyone in our community. This year, BJ became part of the UJA-Federation of New York’s Synagogue Inclusion Project, a grant-funded initiative designed to support synagogues in creating communities where people of all abilities are valued.
Inclusion and Engagement Task Force
The Family Life & Learning Inclusion and Engagement Task Force address the work of the Synagogue Inclusion Project. We have been awarded a UJA-NY Federation grant which will be used to create Shabbat bags for young children during services and sensory kits for services and events. In addition, the grant will be used to pilot a program teaching students about inclusion in two Kadima classes this coming fall; this will be integrated into Kadima’s curriculum. The inclusion program is in partnership with the Israeli organization ALEH, an international advocate for “disability inclusion and equity.” We are the first supplementary religious school in North America to be involved in the launch of ALEH Bechinuch’s program.
Our inclusion work ensures that all children and families belong at BJ. To this end, we support the faculty of the Kadima@BJ program so that the students have positive, meaningful experiences and that their learning needs are met. Our faculty participate in professional development several times a year led by members of the Family Life & Learning Department or guest presenters. The members of the Family Life & Learning team engage in their own professional development too. We are guided by three essential questions:
- What does God ask of me?
- Where do I belong?
- How do I add my unique voice to our chain of tradition?
We support families whose children experience learning or social-emotional challenges, and we are equipped to consult on IEPs. Accommodations in an IEP, such as strategies to help students focus or individual support, are implemented in our classrooms. We are open to discussing different learning opportunities, even with the move to distance learning, to make sure that each student feels connected to our community.
During virtual learning, we are still mindful to provide multi-sensory experiences and alternate ways for students to collaborate, demonstrate understanding, and build confidence. There are numerous digital tools that can be used inside the “new” classroom to reach all kinds of learners and document their learning, especially those who struggle with writing.
We are planning to bring mindfulness practice into our educational setting. Simply stated, mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment without judgement. There is increasing scientific research to show that it supports emotional well-being, self-regulation, and learning. Through effective lessons and activities (focused on breathing, the five senses, and movement), we can help students develop skills to build resilience.
What We Provide
- Support for sensory processing challenges, ADHD, speech and language disorders, specific learning disabilities, and ASD
- Assistance and guidance to families through the Committee on Special Education (CSE) process
- Review of evaluations and IEPs
- Information on special education rights under school closure
- Remedial strategies for reading, writing, and math
- Strategies for organization, note-taking, studying, and test-taking
- Strategies to minimize homework struggles
- Strategies to decrease avoidance behaviors
- Support for other parenting challenges
- Strategies to build competence and self esteem in your child
- Parent coaching on collaborative problem solving
- Resources for COVID-19
- Recommendations for self care
- Referrals for outside professionals
Learning Together But Differently Resources
Strategies and other recommendations for children with special needs are often best practices for all students.
Articles & Evidence-Based Strategies
- Child Mind Institute focuses on children with learning disorders and mental health needs, with an excellent section for families and specifically supporting families during COVID-19 (sign up for daily tips).
- Understood supports children who learn and think differently and their families, with specific information on helping families cope with the new normal.
- ADDitude offers resources for families living with ADHD and related conditions.
- SensorySmarts is for families whose children have sensory needs.
- Educational Connections Tutoring has published an ebook, Homeschooling During COVID-19, by Ann Dolin.
- Inclusion Workshops has an excellent article by Toby Karten on “Rethinking Inclusion,” with many useful links, especially for families whose children have IEPs and are entitled to related services.
- Common Sense Media is a leading source of entertainment and technology recommendations, including books, movies, games, and apps, all vetted by a panel of professionals in education and psychology.
- GoNoodle engages children with movement and mindfulness videos.
Free Online Programs for Students
- Headspace and Calm: apps for adults
- Mindful Kids: 50 Mindfulness Activities for Kindness, Focus and Calm by Whitney Stewart and Mina Braum, for ages 4 to 104!
- Calm – Mindfulness Flash Cards for Kids: 40 Activities to Help You Learn to Live in the Moment published by DK Children