Meeting a Child’s Special Needs

Meeting a Child’s Special Needs

By Rachel Stein /

Dilemma recap: What can concerned parents do for Josh, a child flailing in a Jewish day school because of a language processing disorder? The public schools have a better special education program, but what will happen to his Jewish education?

Pick a Program for His Needs

First, congratulations on getting your child tested. Accepting that your child has a learning difference is difficult to do. It is natural to experience anger and frustration with a school for not helping your child.

One of the most important things you can achieve as a parent is to provide a safe environment where your child can learn and be successful.

Mr. Fin is correct that school is only going to get more difficult for your child, and a dual curriculum is not the route for him. Unless he develops strategies to process language, he will fall further behind in his academics and become more frustrated.

Some of the Jewish day schools do have programs for children with language processing disorders, in addition to what the public schools provide. You have work to do to make sure he is in the program best suited to his needs.

Public schools don’t always have a “polluted atmosphere,” but you need to be involved without hovering to make sure his academic needs are met.

Besides a dual curriculum, there are many ways for Josh to receive a Jewish education. You can begin that in your home.

My strongest recommendation  is for you to read David Flink’s book “Thinking Differently.”

I hope you do the right thing and get your child the help he needs to be successful and love school again.

— Patty Nathan

Weigh Overall Well-Being

Before retiring, I designed psychiatric rehabilitation programs for Grady and JVS of Detroit, among others, and was a consultant for the Edenwald School (a residence for children from broken homes) in the Bronx. I also have a son with a processing disorder who could go only to selected colleges because of the limited number of specialized programs.

I understand the problem. If your general practitioner discovered you had a specialized problem, would you want her to treat it, or would you want a referral to a physician who had the training, knowledge, experience, interest and equipment to handle your special issue?

Similarly, doesn’t your child deserve the same consideration? Is it reasonable to expect one school to be able to handle all problems?

It is possible, as the psychologist indicated, that Josh just couldn’t handle the dual curriculum even if the school provided the appropriate teachers, space, time and tools. You could be risking many more problems in several areas if the decision is to try to force the school to provide what Josh is unequipped to handle at this time.

I know what you are going through because I have been there. My hope is that Josh’s results are as good as my son’s. A big part of that is in your hands.

Best of luck to you and Josh. I’m rooting for you.

— A Friend

Prepare for Concessions

Whoever said being a parent is easy?

When your job situation doesn’t work for you, it can usually be changed. When a relationship with a friend is unproductive or unhealthy, you can let go and move on. And if you’re in a community where your family’s needs are not being met, there is the option to relocate.

But once you’ve birthed your child, there is no release, no letting go — you’re in it for life.

First, let me commend you on your devotion and concern for Josh’s well-being. You are clearly a doting Jewish mother whose primary concern is for your child to grow and become a source of joy and inspiration to his family, the community, the Jewish people and ultimately to G-d.

If there is any way to keep Josh in the Jewish day school, that is a good place to start. Can they modify the curriculum so it’s not so confusing and demanding for him?

If they can’t or won’t work according to Josh’s needs, then what choice do you have but to send Josh to the public school that has a program geared to his specific learning challenges?

You can hire a tutor for Josh so that he is exposed to the Judaism that is obviously of great value to you. Perhaps enroll him in a Jewish youth group so that he has Jewish friends in a positive framework.

And be good to yourself. Don’t hit yourself over the head with should’ves and could’ves. You are trying your best to help your child, and sometimes (most times) the road is strewn with thorns and detours.

Go out with friends for a cup of coffee, relax and enjoy life. Thank G-d for giving you a precious Jewish child to raise and nurture. And when you have a spare moment in the race to do carpool, get your child to soccer practice and put dinner on the table, a little prayer can do wonders.

— Renee Altman

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