Mr. Cuong Do and Mr. Steven Keisman visit Shema Kolainu – Hear Our Voices School

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Shema Kolainu’s doors are always open not only for parents and children, but also for our friends and board members. Today we had two distinguished visitors, Mr. Cuong Do, Executive Vice President, Global Strategy Group at Samsung, and Mr. Steven … Continue reading

Film Raises Questions on Autism in Adulthood

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To this day, many still do not understand the nature of autism and our culture still does not have a solid solution for autistic children after their parents die. Continue reading

How Wrestling Empowered a Student with Autism to Interact with the World

Wresting with AutismParents of a child on the autism spectrum understand the importance and difficulty of keeping their child engaged with the world around them. Kurt Janicki, the father of an autistic child, was struggling with his son’s tendency to disconnect and drift away from the present moment. Mr. Janicki was looking for ways to get his son to interact with his surroundings and he couldn’t have imagined an answer to his dreams would come in the sport of wrestling. The unexpected life-changing event took place when his son, Erik Janicki, was watching the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament. It was right in that moment that he realized he wanted to participate in his high school’s wrestling program. Ever since, Erik has been connected to the world thanks to his passionate interest in the sport. 

“If you let him, his world would close in on him. If you don’t keep him connected to the world around him, he would close in on himself in a heartbeat, and he would continue to do that.”, said Mr. Janicki. The ease in which Erik retreats back into his shell is what has made his discovery of wrestling that much more significant. He’s now known to be “Coach Erik” within his teammates and his involvement in the sport has given him an opportunity to better himself. As one of the coaches, Erik’s responsibilities include helping the head coach run practices and delivering motivational speeches to the team before their scheduled meets. 

Erik’s father participated in the same high school’s wrestling program back in the 1980’s and he was able to reach the Middlesex County Wrestling Tournament. “The thing about wrestling – you know how personal and emotional it can be – and Erik watches the journey that each one of these young men takes. He connects with them, and he’s emotionally invested in it”, explained Kurt Janicki. He was pleased, even shocked, by the offer of South River head coach Bobby Young to integrate Erik into the team by making him a coach. He thought his son was going to be on the sidelines and was gratifyingly surprised to see he truly was going to form an integral part of the experience. 

Erik’s parents look forward to a future where he can continue to thrive and grow as a person. His involvement and excitement as one of the wrestling coaches have installed a positive outlook into his transition to adulthood. They hope to continue to bring down the barrier that sometimes blocks their son from interacting independently with the world but remain optimistic. Mr. Janicki has some inspiring words of advice to other parents with children on the autism spectrum. He says, “They are wonderful gifts in your life. Don’t hide them from the world. Take time to let them teach you about yourself and about them.”

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By Edgar Catasus

Mazel Tov, Zev Jacobs!

When Zev Jacobs was three years old, he was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. The doctor told his mother, Cantor Julie Jacobs, her son will most likely never learn to read or write. Well, let’s just say that doctor was wrong: not only did Jacob learn to read and write in English, but in Hebrew as well. Cantor Julie Jacobs and her son belong to temple Beth David Congregation in South Florida, where the congregants have never witnessed someone with autism make his Bar Mitzvah…until now- Zev Jacobs will be celebrating his Bar Mitzvah this Saturday.

 

A Bar Mitzvah is a rite of passage for Jewish boys when they reach age 13.It’s an extremely important and family oriented occasion and an even bigger occasion for Zev. Zev’s mother says he always had a strong interest in Judaism, especially the prayers and music, but was not expecting this day to ever come,

 

“More than 10 years ago, when Zev was diagnosed with autism, doctors told me that he would never be able to read and write…First he was attracted to the music. Then, he learned to not only read and write in English, but in Hebrew as well…I am so proud of the milestone he will accomplish at his bar mitzvah.”[i]

 

Zev even learned to play the drums, and played them at the congregation’s monthly Shabbat Pasión service, which is a collaboration of traditional Jewish music with contemporary Latin and world music, led by Zev’s mother. Hopefully Zev’s Bar Mitzvah will start a trend, so other boys with autism can also celebrate this joyous occasion.



[i] “Miami Herald” Autism doesn’t stop teen from celebrating bar mitzvah. 03 Oct 2013. Web. <http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/10/03/3660953/autism-doesnt-stop-teen-from-celebrating.html>

Mom with Asperger’s Struggles to Regain Custody of Autistic Daughters

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Souza is a San Diego mother fighting to regain custody of her two daughters, both affected by autism spectrum disorder, who she claims were unjustly removed from her guardianship.  Linda was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, and argues that she is a victim of discrimination, pointing to widespread injustice in the legal system that robs developmentally delayed adults of their basic rights. Linda’s oldest daughter Amber, 28, describes her mother as a dedicated and caring parent who carefully tended to her daughters special needs. Amber claims that her 13-year old sister’s specific dietary and medical requirements are being overlooked in state-run care, and petitions to have her sisters returned to her mother’s custody.

This case is particularly saddening, and points to larger need for a conversation among advocates and policy-makers regarding the rights of developmentally delayed adults. Linda uses her blog to publicize her mission, and also as a creative showcase for her photography and video work.  You can visit Linda’s site here: http://aspiemomto3girls.blogspot.com/

Explaining Death to Children with Autism

Explaining Death to Children with Autism

There are many complicated questions that your children may ask as they grow. Explaining the concept of death can be one of the most difficult things to explain – especially when your child has autism.

While there are some stereotypes about children with autism being less emotional and more matter of fact than their typically-developing peers, this is not the case. The death of a family member or friend can be emotionally devastating to children with autism. It is important to prepare them for these situations and do your best to help them along the process. Continue reading