SWFS To Open A New Weekly Class for ALL Children with Autism

Home Community Discussion Religious School SWFS To Open A New Weekly Class for ALL Children with Autism

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      maya blank

      Our innovative Kulanu (All of Us) program, now in its eighth year, is unique in New York City as it is open to ALL children with autism regardless of how significantly affected by the disability, and it operates as an integral part of the synagogue community, providing a comprehensive Jewish education and Bar/Bat Mitzvah preparation in the context of a full community life and ongoing engagement with fellow religious school students, clergy and school-wide staff.

      The class, led by an actress-teacher with a Masters in Special Education from Columbia University and years of experience as an educator and artist, features highly experiential learning of Jewish tradition, holidays and themes, as well as weekly participation in prayer, lessons and celebrations with other religious school classes. This unique program that emphasizes inclusion, family participation, and independence, has been extremely successful thus far. In addition to the ongoing rigorous and joyful learning, several of the Kulanu students, children with little or no verbal skills, have had a very moving Bar Mitzvah ceremony, an achievement that was celebrated with the students’ families, teachers, friends, and the entire synagogue community.

      For more information please contact mayablank@gmail.com or swfs.org

      Here are some testimonials from Kulanu Parents and community:

      “When the Kulanu class first started, we hoped that it would help our son learn basic Jewish rituals, customs and prayers so he could participate with his family as well as feel a connection to his Jewish identity and community. The class has far exceeded all of our expectations. The teachers have taught him through visuals, hands-on activities, music and games to take part in the observance of both Shabbat and other Jewish holidays. He no longer just watches, he takes an active role in these events, pouring the grape juice, passing the challah, covering his eyes during candle lighting and saying the prayers. Our son has had so much fun and learned so much that our hopes are higher than ever that he will continue to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be Jewish and take part in significant rites of passage, such as Bar Mitzvah and confirmation.”–Dean, Parent

      “… David had become highly motivated to learn and has developed a love for his Bar Mitzvah…While lying in bed David still sings along to the [Bar Mitzvah] songs he knows. All this from a boy who has very limited speech! It was hard not to sense the hand of God resting on David’s shoulder as he made impressive progress. Needless to say, the actual Bar Mitzvah day was an amazing achievement for David and an incredibly moving experience for all who attended…Beyond the Bar Mitzvah component, the Kulanu program is built with a sense of urgency in its structure and richness. The design of the program takes into consideration the littlest of details in an effort to maximize learning during the students’ every minute of religious school time. As a result, the students stay active and engaged in meaningful learning from the moment they arrive in the classroom…It is with this same sense of urgency that I believe the larger Jewish community should embrace and support Kulanu so this proven program can reach all of those in need and be a blessing to all.”–Robert Epner, Parent

      “…With her vast knowledge of the creative arts, history, Hebrew, and Jewish ideals, Maya brings Judaism and all of its aspects to life in her classroom, and then also out in the community…Maya provides an exceptional opportunity for her students to receive a relevant and meaningful Jewish education through…Kulanu’s help with the Synagogue’s Emergency Food Program and the students’ regular participation as ushers for Shabbat services. In the warm atmosphere of the Kulanu class facilitated by Maya’s lively personality and teaching style, I found a strong sense of family and, with Maya’s confident guidance, I was given the opportunity to teach what I had been recently taught in Religious School, to delve into understanding different learning styles, and to learn to communicate through a nonverbal language. I entered the program with the intent of helping to teach, but have continued to receive as much as I have given, through an acquisition of patience, newfound understanding of minds different than my own, and a feeling of personal value when successfully helping others.” –Sarah, High-School Volunteer

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