The Child Who Does Not Know



This time of year, as we start to clean out the Chametz, pull out the Seder plate and get the timbrel down off its shelf – as I ready my home and heart for my favorite holiday – there is also a tinge of sadness to our preparations. Justin’s name, which comes up not infrequently all year, will be mentioned more in the weeks to come – by me, by my wife Tina, by our son. As we unpack the Passover boxes, I know there will be items in there that I will find myself just holding, as I stare in wistful silence. And I will shed more than a few tears preparing for another Passover without him.

What does the wise child say? “I would like to know everything about Passover and its observance.” Since this child is very motivated to learn you should explain the story and all the laws of Passover in great detail.

Justin came into our lives just as Tina and I were finding that our separate lives were merging into one. He was a student of hers originally, but she – and me by extension – became close with him and his parents after her professional role in his life had ended. As Tina and I set up our first home together and planned our first Seder together, we knew we wanted to include them. And I remember saying that we were meant to make this particular Seder.

You see, Justin, who was a preschooler at the time, had severe multiple disabilities. He was non-verbal, used a wheelchair (although later he would learn to walk, just not usually in the direction anyone might ask him to), and had a lot of self-injurious behaviors. A seizure disorder and severe brain damage had left this little boy with some awfully big challenges.

But here we were, a couple of teachers – a Jewish Early Childhood Educator and an Early Childhood Special Educator. We seemed a partnership uniquely suited for this task. It wasn’t just about having Justin present at our Seder, but for us it was about true inclusion – making it a meaningful experience for him.

This post was written by Sharon Rosenberg-Scholl. It originally appeared on TC Jewfolk (click here to read the rest of the article on TC Jewfolk).

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