Regarding your article “Special-Needs Families Fighting Jewish Day Schools” (June 11), please note that Yeshiva Darchei Torah, with more than 1,600 students, boldly fights this longstanding prejudice toward special-needs children and bravely welcomes special children with all disabilities (including cognitive), alongside their typical peers.
It stems from the top-down institutional recognition that typical students exposed to special- needs peers develop personal principles, the ability to assume an advocacy role for a friend with disabilities and a reduced fear of human differences. Classmates are empowered to do the right thing, not by being told to by a teacher’s instruction but by instinct borne of watching (and helping) a less gifted peer struggle to succeed.
Not every special-needs child succeeds in the environment — but each child receives that which they (and Caily Samuels, cited in your story) absolutely deserve — a chance. Given that simple opportunity to shine and with proper support, many special-needs students with cognitive disabilities greatly surpass expectations. This inclusive model requires true administrative leadership, visionary educators and an admissions policy committed to giving every child the opportunity for a Jewish education — all factors which sadly appear absent at Manhattan Day School.
Shame on them.