As the Jewish festival of Purim approaches, we at Judith Trust welcome any tips to promote Inclusion for those with Disabilities in the Jewish community. Purim commemorates the Jewish triumph in face of adversity in Persia, with Mordechai and Queen Esther its chief heroes.
Purim is a joyous festival but one that includes dressing in costume and loud noise levels that could prove problematic.
- Introduce the idea of dressing in costume through apps such as Picturizr, which allows you to adapt photos with funny accessories such as beards and hats (using tablets also helps develop hand eye coordination and fine motor skills)
- Choose costumes with soft, not scratchy material
- Beware of lace and tight elastic directly on the skin
- Try and make the base of the costume from regular clothes that the child wears and then add accessories
- Have the costume out in the open so that the child sees it often and can get used to it
- Dress a doll in the costume
- Have your child try the costume at home in stages, gradually adding accessories
Preparing Mishloach Manot:
Use the opportunity to help improve your child’s fine motor skills:
- Have your child write a list of who will receive mishloach manot, and a shopping list of ingredients for hamentashen
- Bake with your child (have him or her roll the dough, mix different fillings, feel different dough textures)
- Ask him or her to design, cut and paste, and colour a box to pack them in.
- Megillah Reading Preparation:
- Talk to your child in advance about what is going to happen
- Make a raashan (noise maker) at home out of paper cups and beans or rice
- Play with the raashan at home to get used to the noise
- Look for a child / disability-friendly Megillah reading in your community
- Sit in synagogue near a door so you can get out if you have to.
Jennifer Mizrahi adds the following tips for Purim in her article http://jewishweek.timesofisrael.com/10-inclusion-tips-for-purim-passover/
Don’t be afraid to include guests with disabilities. People with disabilities have their disabilities 24/7, so they know how to create work-arounds so that they feel comfortable. If you know someone has a disability, use a simple strategy — ask the person what they need to be fully included. All too often people with disabilities are not invited to events, or don’t go because they feel embarrassed to “put someone out” by asking for a simple thing that will help them attend. By telling them that their presence is valued, and asking what they need, you will build a new level of trust and affection
Addressing attitude. Kids and adults can be daunted when encountering someone who is different from them. If it’s a children’s event you can talk to the group at the start of the party about kindness and respect for each other and each other’s differences. A holiday gathering is a great opportunity for kids to learn about one another.
Beware that the noise that happens when someone says “Haman” can literally cause some people to have significant anxiety attacks. So you want to let those people know it is ok to show up after that part is over, or to have a room that is quieter as an option for the Megillah reading. Parties can cause sensory overload for any child or adult. But for a person with autism or a sensory processing disorder, a Purim party can be really overwhelming. Offer opportunities for guests to take a break, perhaps in a quiet room away from the crowd. Some venues may have options for turning down music or minimizing stimulation — and that is useful anywhere there are a lot of kids! Latex allergies (balloons) and chemical sensitivities (use of highly scented cleaners or staff wearing perfumes) are real issues. Solutions: Use alternative mylar balloons. Ask people to not wear strong scents, and choose unscented cleaning products.
If you have a wheelchair user who you want to invite, you may want to create a temporary ramp, or move the venue to a private room at a restaurant, accessible synagogue or community centre. Venues should have a ground level entrance or ramp, an elevator if it’s upstairs, and accessible bathrooms. Most public places (hotels, restaurants etc.) are usually equipped for people with disabilities. Just check at the venue ahead of time.
If a guest attending the party is non-verbal or communicates in other ways such as Sign Language or a communication board, talk about it with the guests. Installing free Dragon software onto an Ipad in advance can enable you to speak with someone who is deaf as it instantly transcribes what you are saying. Having an interpreter can be worth the cost, as all the people can communicate and maybe learn a little sign language! Remember to speak directly to a child or adult whether s/he is verbal or not.
- Chag Sameach Purim from the entire Judith Trust Team. We thank Jweb and Jennifer Mizrahi for their excellent tips.