I have been reading the series of articles the past few weeks on inclusion in the Jewish community. Congratulations to the camps and educational settings that have welcomed children with developmental disabilities into the lives of their campers and students (“Funders Debate Inclusion During Tour Of Camps,” Aug. 10).
In New Jersey, we are very proud of the work of SINAI schools and the impact it has made on our children.
I, however, am saddened by the lack of progress in one particular area. On Nov. 15, 2009, I wrote a letter regarding an opinion piece by Devorah Zlochower and Rabbi Dov Linzer. Unfortunately no significant strides have been made as of yet. Here is what I wrote then:
“I am a psychologist who has worked in yeshivot for the past 17 years. Each year, I exert much of my efforts to help a child whose disabilities are anything but hidden. Thank God, most of the yeshivot are well-equipped to deal with students with learning disabilities. However, we have a population of students who have significant emotional or neurological needs and would benefit from a therapeutic yeshiva setting, where they could be mainstreamed when possible. My colleagues in other schools and I bemoan weekly that most of these children either leave to therapeutic public school settings, or remain in yeshiva not receiving the on-site services they desperately need, (i.e. daily counseling, family counseling, social skills training, group work, psychiatric intervention etc.). Parents are forced to choose between a Jewish education and a stable emotional life for their child. Most of these children are intellectually able to manage a dual curriculum, yet their emotional needs stand in their way.
Such a therapeutic program is costly. However, if I may speak for my fellow mental health professionals, this program is a necessity. A therapeutic yeshiva setting must be the priority for our community. Why should these children be kept from their heritage?”
I write again, hoping that someone will take note and that some solutions will be found.
President, Yeshiva Counseling Network Director of Guidance, Yavneh Academy Middle School