New Initiative for Jewish Neurodiverse Students

New Initiative for Jewish Neurodiverse Students

East Cobb resident Noach Pawliger draws on his own background to make things better for different learners now and for generations to come.

After 37 years with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and now with the AJT, , Jaffe’s focus is lifestyle, art, dining, fashion, and community events with emphasis on Jewish movers and shakers.

Pawliger encourages others to see him out for conversation and help.
Pawliger encourages others to see him out for conversation and help.

Recent academic studies show that one in every five children has a learning and attention related disorder. It’s forecasted in the coming decade that the number will magnify to one in three. Sometimes this population is stigmatized as the “kid who can’t sit still,” or “who can’t follow directions,” and/or are directed to vocational programs and away from the mainstream.

Many families who prize Jewish education face a difficult choice: send their child to a Jewish day school that may not offer the needed support and resources or enroll them in a school that can meet and manage their learning needs, but in a secular environment.

Enter Noach Pawliger, who has initiated Niflaot: The Jewish Exceptional Learners Initiative, which seeks to fill the void. Its vision is to serve as an “action tank,” a borderless community to support families, educators, schools, students, and change makers dedicated to educating the whole Jewish child, regardless of learning challenges. Its goal is to be a clearinghouse of information, resources, and solutions to understand and nurture neurodiverse learners.

Noach Pawliger, founder and chief impact officer for Niflaot, seeks to support Jewish students who are neurodiverse learners.

Pawliger, founder and chief impact officer, has “walked the walk.” He grew up in East Cobb and Sandy Springs and didn’t have the opportunity to attend a Jewish day school. Rather, his parents opted for non-Jewish institutions that focused on resources to support his neurodiversity.

He stated, “This project is very personal. Growing up with my own neurodiversity and working hard to make an impact for others like me was never simple. I had parents who did their best to provide support. The academic world was always a struggle.”

Pawliger and his team found that by and large, outside of Israel, the Tri-state Northeast region, and Baltimore, there really aren’t solid opportunities for neurodiverse learners to access effective Jewish education. Within Atlanta, two programs folded because “it was not a community priority.”

He continued, “So, either teachers learn to shift from teaching a task to educating learners, or we will see lots of broken learners. And, these are not the assembly line kids, on the contrary, they are innovators, R&D, and creative geniuses whose potential has been caged for too long. It’s time to uncage their potential, and teach them, and at that point everyone benefits!”

Niflaot has the specific goal of being a scalable model for a flexible, powerful educational system that will allow those who learn differently to flourish in mainstream environments. It aims to overcome challenges including:
• A lack of coordination among school hierarchy, educators, and parents.
• Insufficient resources meaningful to the neurodiverse learner.
• An absence of solid research identifying obstacles to the achievement of healthy models of inclusion.

Its staff is a loose confederation of highly motivated parents, educators, and community members from across the U.S all embarking on initial research that will lead to creation of two pilot programs: (1) an in-school educational model, and (2) a training program for educators to include Jewish neurodiverse students in their program of study.

They are also assembling a library of resources, including an experts’ bureau of knowledgeable individuals available for support and consultation.
Pawliger concluded, “Judaism’s ‘brand’ has always been linked to a love of learning, and a laser-focus on education. Unfortunately, the story of Am HaSefer, the People of the Book, does not include a chapter on those who learn differently.

“Our arms are spread wide as we focus on helping all Jewish families achieve their highest potential for educational inclusion, innovation, and impact.”

For more information, contact Pawliger at (404) 358-5098 or

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