Special-Needs Inclusion


 Your story about special-needs families missed a very important aspect of inclusion, which is that children who are “differently abled” bring unique perspectives and opportunities to typical children and adults (“Special Needs Families Fighting Jewish Day Schools,” June 11).

My 19-year-old son with Down syndrome has been included in yeshiva, teen group and his charter high school. In every setting I have marveled at how he has been accepted for who he is. He does have cognitive disabilities and is a slow learner. He is also very smart, and has discovered that the way for him to be successful is to be welcoming to others. He has learned what many of us with superior cognitive abilities find ourselves seeking — how to be open, loving and enthusiastic about life. 

His primary school education was at a yeshiva, where he was taught to read and write in two languages. The boys in his classes accepted him and understood that God makes us all, God does not make mistakes and we all deserve to be educated. Although he is now in a secular charter high school, it is no different. The caring and inclusive school environment teaches the same lesson. We all belong and each has a place in the community.

By opening our schools and communities we can continue to learn important lessons from those whose perspectives are naturally different. We can learn to be more loving, more fun and accepting of who we each are.