Advocating For Students With Special Needs: Adam Dayan, 31


As a kid in a Sephardic family in Flatbush, Dayan thought he’d become a writer or lawyer. Eventually he decided that a writer’s life was not necessarily financially lucrative.

In college he majored in industrial/organizational psychology, thinking he’d become a psychologist. Later, he considered becoming an international businessman.

Now, Dayan combines all of his interests is his work as an attorney who focuses on children with autism and other special needs, helping their families, sometimes on a pro bono basis, obtain government benefits and schools’ often-hard-to-line-up services.

On the job, Dayan writes such lawyerly fare as briefs and appeals, and a more creative, special education-centered blog. He gets to use his knowledge of psychology in dealing with educators and the legal system. And his interest in special education advances of other countries has taken him around the world; One day, he said, he might act on his interest in business as well, maybe by becoming a consultant.

“I’ve always loved kids,” he said. “School should be easy for kids. Life should be easy for kids.”

Dayan, who is Orthodox and attended the Yeshivah of Flatbush, is an active member of the Safra Synagogue on the Upper East Side.

His interest in special education was sparked by a research project on autism while an undergraduate at Baruch College.

He traces his interest in helping society’s powerless to what he learned at home and at school.

“That’s part of your Jewish education,” he said.

Going bananas: On a recent flight to Japan, Dayan and his wife Michelle discovered that their kosher meals hadn’t arrived. Instead, the flight attendants brought the couple a platter of “20, 30, 40 bananas,” Dayan said, “the only thing that wasn’t treif on the plane.” It was, he said, “a beautiful way to start the trip.”

Ravenous reader: One of Dayan’s favorite books is “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” Mark Haddon’s 2004 mystery novel told through the perspective of a teenage boy with autism. “The book captivated me,” Dayan said. “It reinforced what I was studying.”

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