By H. Glenn Rosenkrantz, for Gateways
Over at Striar Hebrew Academy of Sharon (SHAS), the head of school is starting these early days of the new term as he always does, standing out front and greeting students as they arrive by foot, car or bike.
And every day, without fail, one car pulls up, and one bespectacled third-grader emerges with a resounding and heartfelt “Boker Tov” delivered with ear-to-ear smiles.
“Every morning, he teaches me how to relate to others, with a sweetness and openness and ever-present good humor,” said Dr. Richard Wagner, head of school. “He sets the tone. It’s contagious.”
It’s a mighty load for an eight-year-old boy, but Binny Ellenbogen unwittingly delivers big time.
And here, no one thinks twice about the fact that Binny is a child with Down syndrome. For sure, he is in the minority as a child with special needs, but he is in the majority as a child attending SHAS for a solid and immersive Jewish day school education and experience.
Of the 110 students at SHAS, Binny is one of about a dozen receiving support services from Gateways to address special learning needs. These are provided through individualized instruction and therapies both in and out of the classroom, but all within a supported inclusion program.
A learning specialist modifies and customizes his curricula but preserves and maintains its goals and objectives. An instructional aide helps him to understand classroom lessons on his own terms, and he receives occupational, speech and language therapies during the course of the week, all while being fully included with classmates and in tune with the rhythms of the school day.
“He is a full participant in the school community along with his peers,” said Sue Schweber, Founder of the Day School Program at Gateways: Access to Jewish Education, which partners with SHAS and 12 other Jewish day schools in the greater Boston area to ensure a Jewish education for students with special learning needs.
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Click here to read a Q & A with Dr. Richard Wagner, Head of School, Striar Hebrew Academy of Sharon (SHAS).
Click here to read a Q & A with Sue Schweber, Founder of the Day School Program at Gateways.