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Frequently Asked Questions

Questions for Parents
Questions for Teachers

Parents

Q. Am I the only parent of a child with special needs?
A. Certainly not! Our schools find that 17-25% of the students have special learning needs, much like our public schools. BJE works with community, congregation and day schools, but Yesodot (www.yesodot.org) is an organization that provides information and activities for families of children with special needs. CJP (www.cjp.org) funds additional programs for people of all ages with a variety of special needs.

Q. Are there programs where my child with special needs can receive a Jewish education?
A. Many congregational schools and day schools are currently servicing students with a variety of special needs. There are also preschools where children with disabilities are successfully integrated. Programs that receive funding though CJP/BJE are listed on our website. Some communities are joining together to form regional programs to enable them to offer more programs for children with disabilities. Discuss the options that exist in your community with your educational director. Lexington’s B’Yachad and Etgar L’Noar offer programs for children in the greater Boston community with significant disabilities. Etgar L’Noar is a self-contained program of Gateways, (www.jgateways.org). Temple Emunah’s Billy Dalwin Preschool (Lexington) is a 766 approved site. JCCs of Greater Boston Early Learning Centers provide onsite early intervention specialists to work in the classrooms with children, staff and parents. (www.jccearlylearning.org/special).

Q. How are the day schools servicing children with special learning needs?
A. In the spring of 2005, the day schools received $2.2 million through CJP’s Peerless Excellence Project to better serve children with special needs. This money is being used for staffing, classroom supports, professional development, the Jewish Special Education Collaborative, Etgar L’Noar and research & evaluation.
Many of the larger day schools have special educators, psychologists, and social workers who can help make the necessary modifications to enable students with special needs to succeed at school. Educators at day schools want children to be successful academically as well as socially. It is important to talk with the professionals at the day school to discuss the accommodations needed for your child’s success.

Q. Why should I share my child’s IEP with the synagogue’s special educator or educational director when it relates to the public school curriculum?
A. The IEP has information about how your child learns best and what educational modifications are used in his/her public school. The more information the professionals at your school have, the better they can meet your child’s needs. With the information of the IEP,together the parents and professionals can develop an educational plan for the child’s Jewish education. Click on   (Jewish Education Action Plan )   in this section.

Q.Will my child with disabilities be able to have a bar or bat mitzvah?
A. Children with disabilities can become a Bar or Bat Mitzvah – it just takes extra planning. Begin preparation early and be open to having a ceremony that matches your child’s capabilities. Talk with your child’s teacher, education director and rabbi to create a service that meets your child’s and family’s needs. While many children are called to the Torah on Shabbat morning, others celebrate during the Shabbat mincha/mariv service and havdalah; others choose a Rosh Chodesh service. Some children use communication devices for their aliyah since that is their voice, some share drawings of their parashat, while others independently chant the Torah and/or Haftorah portions. Should you meet resistance at your synagogue, feel free to contact Sherry Grossman at the BJE.

Teachers
Q. What professional development opportunities are there to learn more about special education?
A. Through the Bureau of Jewish Education you may attend network meetings that give educators interested in special education an opportunity to learn and discuss common issues. Some meetings are targeted for congregational school teachers and some are for day school educators. Periodically we offer speakers on special education issues.
Professional development for day schools is offered by the BJE through CJP’s Peerless Excellence Project: Day Schools and Special Education. In the 05-06 academic year, the focus is on Differentiated Instruction and Reading. The 2006 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year gave a presentation about how her classroom and school implement differentiated instruction. Teachers and administrators were invited to visit the Sawyer School in Bolton to observe and meet with their staff. Peggy Radcliff, reading coordinator of the Dearborn School in Arlington, presented the Wisnia-Kapp Reading Approach, a multisensory developmental reading program that can be implemented in grades K-2 and used for remedial instruction in all grades. Teachers can enroll in a two-day intensive training to learn this system and implement it in their classroom. Monthly on-site supervision and demonstrations will be given to support the teachers who adopt this reading approach.
Schools may contact Sherry Grossman (sgrossman@bje.org ) to discuss consultation and workshops. In addition, Hebrew College offers classes and a Certificate in Jewish Special Education.

Q. How can we encourage parents to share their child’s IEP with us?
A. During an intake interview all parents should be asked whether their child has any special learning needs and how their child learns best. If parents indicate their child is receiving special education services at school or that their child has been evaluated, explain why it is important for them to share this information. Many parents want their child’s experience in a congregational school to be devoid of the labels and stigma of special education. Explain to the parents that this information will help you better include the child and meet his/her learning needs.

Q. What if no one on our staff knows how to interpret testing results or IEP information when it is shared?
A. If the child attends public school, you can ask the parents for permission to meet with the special educator and/or teacher. You might consider having a community member who is a special educator, college professor, or school psychologist volunteer to work with you on this specific issue. This professional person understands the importance of confidentiality, but you should discuss this issue with them. For consultation, education directors may contact Sherry Grossman (sgrossman@bje.org ).

Q. What should we do if a child’s special needs are interfering with his/her academic or social success at our school and we feel that we can no longer accommodate him/her?
A. Whether this occurs at a congregational school or a day school, it is a difficult and painful experience for the child and parents. Because of the sensitivities involved in such a decision, the matter needs to be handled in person with the educational director or special educator, the teacher and the parents. It is important to be straightforward about the child’s strengths as well as difficulties, to indicate the accommodations already being made, and to discuss the capability of the school personnel to continue to include the child. Safety for the child and other children in the school is of prime importance.
Documentation of classroom and individual performance is critical to provide ongoing specific observations to share among parents and professionals. Indicate the steps already taken to have the child meet success academically and socially. Try to make suggestions as to the next steps for the parent (e.g., obtaining more testing, observing another program). If this is not a response to a crisis situation where action needs to occur immediately, you can arrange another meeting, thereby giving the parents a chance to digest the ideas presented; at this second meeting you can discuss possible options. Be sure parents have options for continuing the child’s education in other programs, through tutoring, or by coming for some of the hours of your school. Indicate what steps must be taken in order for the child to return full time to the school program.
 
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