Surely you’ve noted I’m in Indianapolis. This means that, for most of the week, we haven’t gone outside. Because COLD.

School has been closed since the Winter Break in December, and everyone with a kid who’s not yet been returned to school is probably noticing that said kid is getting a little stir crazy.

No doubt trying to help, after my wife mentioned the situation on Facebook, one of the folks who works for the local Jewish community chimed in with the wishing-to-be-helpful response that the local JCC was providing aftercare (after-school care) services starting at 9 a.m. today. Which is nice, unless you’ve got a kid with special needs.

My wife, showing the better side of–valor? something?–said somewhat obliquely that we haven’t used the aftercare program because the JCC doesn’t have the space or manpower to deal with our needs.

I wasn’t so contained; I’ve talked before about part of why I’m doing rabbinical studies. And being somewhat less contained, I commented that the Jewish community does hardly anything for special needs kids.

We love our son. We can’t imagine our lives otherwise. But families with special needs kids–autism, Down syndrome, CP, CF, MS, MD, whatever–need help. They are already often isolated. That religiously-oriented institutions don’t do a better job providing help is simply shameful. It’s especially shameful in the Jewish community, which can find ample resources for so many other things.

Is it hard? Yes. Does it take individualized programs, time, and attention? Yes.

Families with special needs children have lower incomes, lower earning potential, lower quality of life, and greater tendencies toward instability than other families. We don’t have money to throw around for donations; we pick and choose carefully.

I don’t begrudge private programs having to pick and choose who attends. That’s in the nature of private programs; they get to do that.

But if you want our donations, you’re going to need to make real efforts to provide services.

And if you don’t like it, you know what? Tough shit.


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