Week of January 28, 2019 / 22 Shevat 5779 Inclusion in the PASECC
The Jewish community designates the month February as JDAIM, Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month. While we at PAS are attentive to inclusion year-round, this month provides an important reminder to take stock of how we as an institution and as Jewish people include individuals of all abilities and needs.
The ECC is an inclusive school. I am sometimes questioned on this point because we are an admissions-based program that does not offer a place to every child. As such, how can we claim to accept all children? While it is challenging, to the extent that we can, we strive to provide an environment that embraces differences.
There is no doubt that the process of applying and being accepted into our program is competitive. There are many factors that influence our committee’s decision about any applicant. For example, when we observe children with their parents, we watch the way they play and interact with one another to ensure that the parents’ style aligns with our approach. In this way, we build a community of parents, as well as a community of children.
Rarely, we determine during the admissions process that our setting is not optimal to meet a particular child’s learning needs. In most cases, however, we accept children without a full understanding of their developmental history. We do this because we are ready to embrace any number of challenges a child may face in early childhood.
In the years that I have been at the ECC, we have worked with children and their families who have a range of physical, emotional, social, and cognitive needs. Our social worker, occupational therapist, and speech and language therapist each come once a week and consult with educators and administrators to ensure that we are implementing strategies to accommodate all of our students’ needs. We are open to and supportive of having specialists work with our children in the classroom, we readily modify our environment and our curriculum in line with their recommendations.
Our philosophy is twofold. First, we commit to meeting children where they are. This means that when we set our curricular and behavioral expectations, we know that some children will exceed them while others will struggle to meet them. All of our educators are dedicated to differentiating their practices to reach all of the learners in their classes. Second, we look for ways to include children with differences and we teach our students that embracing all of their friends is in line with Jewish values.