Many school directors and educators attended the "Day of Awareness: Educating and Supporting Students With Disabilities" symposium that was organized by the Friedman Commission for Jewish Education of the Palm Beaches that took place recently at the Meyer Jewish Academy in Palm Beach Gardens.
"Synagogue school directors and educators in our community told us the number of students who need behavioral interventions and different learning strategies grow each year," said Lynne Lieberman, senior director of CJE, in addressing the need for the day long symposium.
In opening up the symposium to the community at large, CJE cited statistics by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that approximately one in six children in the United States have a developmental disability.
Many sessions addressed specific needs of disabled students, such as Shelly Christensen, author of "Jewish Community Guide to Inclusion of People With Disabilities" giving practical steps for inclusion of disabled students to synagogues and schools in her session titled "From Longing to Belonging: The Keys to Becoming an Inclusive Community."
Jenni Frumer, chief executive officer of Alpert Jewish and Family Services and Children's Services in West Palm Beach discussed the "Levine LifePlanning Program" in assisting primary caregivers of family members with disabilities, regarding planning for support when the caregiver could no longer provide support.
"As a Jewish community, we need to focus on the inclusion of individuals with disabilities and make a particular effort to reach out to families with young children," said Frumer.
"AJFCS is working with all Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County agencies to embrace families with relatives who are disabled to create an environment for lifelong inclusion," said Frumer.
"We learned from everyone ways we can adapt our physical environments and change our institutional cultures to remove barriers in order to become more welcoming and inclusive to all people," said Lieberman.
A highlight of the symposium was a performance by 25-year-old Jewish jazz pianist Matt Savage, who was diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder at age three.
His mother Diane Savage, addressed the audience about the importance of early intervention and therapies in helping her son to become a composer and jazz pianist.
"When Matt was no longer overwhelmed by sound, he noticed sounds that he never heard before, even more remarkable was the change in Matt's understanding of all his senses," said Savage.
This far, Matt Savage has recorded 12 albums, toured the world and performed on network television shows such as "The Today Show."