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When Yeshivas Give Up

When Yeshivas Give Up

Editor's Note: This blog entry was submitted to us by a friend of "The New Normal" who wishes to remain anonymous.

This time of year is full of prayer and tears. We ask G-d to forgive us for our sins and to give us what we need in the year to come. G-d always answers us, although sometimes it is hard to see or hear. At times “luck” is on our side and others it seems as though the world is falling apart.

Over the past few months G-d has given me personal tests that I would rather do without. A divorce, needing to move, looking for a new job … all are things that I would have buried myself under the covers to ignore. But luckily, with the support of a good therapist, amazing parents and friends, I have been able to overcome my ostrich-like habits.

But there is one thing that remains. There is one thing that breaks my heart on a daily basis. It has me searching for answers and crying my heart out. My life’s challenges have impacted greatly on my daughter.

My beautiful daughter, who has always been precocious and tenacious, is now suffering because of circumstances beyond her control. That is not to say that I could have chosen differently when it came to my marriage, but when I look at my child her pain becomes my own, and I question.

With a diagnosis of ADHD since the second grade, my daughter has been on and off medications and struggles with social interaction and conforming to the expectations of her peers and teachers. Overall, it has been a challenge in school, but we were working on it – that is, until my child developed behavioral issues.

There have been studies about children with Oppositional Defiance Disorder (or ODD). If a child has ADHD it is more likely for that child to also have ODD. ODD is even more prevalent in children who go through a rough family situation or trauma.

Two months after I began living separately from her father, my daughter began to have emotional outbursts. She became verbally and physically aggressive both at home and at school. At home I was able to give her structure and clear consequences for her actions. It was bad, but I tried to stay calm and help her with some tough love.

School was different. The yeshiva she was in was at a loss as to what to do. If my daughter thought a peer was insulting her or hurting her she would lash out. We tried to help her. She began seeing a new therapist whose specialty was cognitive behavioral work. We met with the administration on a regular basis and implemented their suggestions at home. We were not in denial – our child had a problem. We needed to help her fix this problem.

Still, what we did was not enough. She still had regular outbursts. It was hard to pinpoint the stimuli. Finally, the yeshiva said that they did not think that their school was the right place for our daughter anymore and made some suggestions of alternative yeshivas.

The problem was that no other yeshivas would take her. We would explain that her behavior problems began fairly recently and we were working with the right professionals to help her. All we ask from the yeshiva in question is that they be willing to work with the professionals and us as a team to help our child through this rough time. They all said no – very respectfully, but it was no nonetheless. The yeshivas were not equipped to deal with a child with behavioral issues.

Finally I called the yeshiva programs for children with learning differences. There was only one that could help, but my daughter needed to wait a year until she was in the right grade. The other programs only helped children who had learning disabilities and my daughter did well educationally. It was her behavior that was a problem.

I tried to shield my daughter from this best I could. She did not know about the footwork and all the calls. But one day it all came to a head. After a particularly rough day I finally said to her, “I don’t know how I am supposed to handle this anymore.”

This was probably not the best thing to say. My daughter started crying and said, “I don’t know why I do it. I can’t help it. Why don’t we just give up?”

No! I couldn’t let my young child feel this way. Nor could I feel this way. There is always a solution to every problem – you just have to search hard enough.

I responded the only way I could, “I will never, ever, give up on you! We will work on this together. You are good. It is just your behavior that we need to work on. There is a way, let’s find it together.”

Sounds good … right?

My response to my daughter was loud and clear. I will not give up on her. Everything I do is worth it since she is a worthy person no matter her past actions. She wants to do better, so with G-d’s help she will.

The yeshiva world is not so forgiving. My daughter is in public school this year. Legally, the district must give her an education. Not so for the yeshivas.

Why? There are so many children who are falling through the cracks. I know there are others who have been asked to leave the yeshiva system because of behavioral issues. Yeshivas cannot handle those who do not fit into the regular mold. Trauma, ADHD, a broken home, it does not matter the cause – if a child cannot function in a normal setting they are written off as someone else’s problem. If one yeshiva gives up on a child why should another yeshiva take them in? None of us want our children with those who might be a bad influence or worse.

The, “Not in my backyard,” defense is a moot point. It is in our backyard! This issue is as important as children with learning or developmental differences. The Jewish community has risen up to the challenge for the before mentioned children. Now we need to rise up to an even greater challenge.

If not us, then who? If not now, then when? We can help these children with attentional and behavioral differences. We can even do it in a yeshiva setting. If we do not do it now then these children will become adults. Their actions will affect more people. They will be lost not only to the Jewish world but to society at large.

I will not give up on the yeshiva world, even if they have given up on my daughter. There is a way. Let’s find it together.

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