The ABC's of Inclusion

The ABC's of Inclusion - Removing the Stumbling Block

Making Sense of Behavior: Girls, Boys, Attention Deficits and Stereotypes

My friends at The Inclusive Class recently posted the following visual on Facebook:

ADD ADHD Girls Stereotypes Behavior

It resonated, but I found myself thinking more about stereotypes than disabilities.

You’ve done it, haven’t you? Referred to girls as “chatty”, categorized their behavior as “drama” or blamed the way she is acting on “hormones”? I certainly have. And there may well be truth to each of those descriptions. But we do our children a disservice when we simply use stereotypes to explain away their behavior. 

That’s why this list really gave me pause. In looking at it closely, many are the sort of behaviors one might explain away as “girl stuff”. And while there are genuine differences in the way that boys and girls may demonstrate attention deficits, far more concerning to me is the way that adults tolerate (or don’t!) these behaviors. According to this article from, “Teachers tend to have a different tolerance level for the behavior girls with ADHD exhibit than they do for the behavior of boys with ADHD.”

Is this leading us to misdiagnosing and/or over-diagnosing children based on our own set of expectations or a lack of ability to manage behavior?

A famous quote: “If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.” 

Shouldn’t the same be true of the way we manage behavior? Why do we continue to force children into neat packages that can sit still and attend for hours at a time?

I have written about attention issues before. In Are We Giving Our Children ADD? I reflected on an article that asserts that we actually have and must train our “attention muscle”. My jury is still out on this concept. While I do think that there is merit to the idea that we can teach, and thereby improve, the skill of paying attention, I also think that we are simply expecting too much of our children when we force them to sit at desks and pay attention throughout an entire school day.

So let’s not assume that all of our girls have ADHD just because they like to chat with friends, and we must not discount the real effect that changing hormones can have on both girls and boys. Rather, let's become increasingly mindful about our expectations of behavior and the way in which we both categorize and tolerate those behaviors we consider problematic. Maybe it's just our expectations that are the problem.

Reflecting on Inclusion - A High Holy Day Writing Round-Up

Saying that the high holy day season is a busy time of year for Jewish professionals is a little like suggesting that a school teacher has a “few things to do” in the week leading up to the opening of school; it’s truly a profound understatement. The holy days require many hours of thoughtful preparation in writing, teaching, cooking, cleaning and so much more. We work to prepare our children & families, our teachers & students, our many congregants; not to mention that we must somehow find the time to prepare ourselves.

Participating in #BlogElul was my personal preparation. And yet, as I look back on a month of daily writing, I must admit that some of it feels like a blur. At times, I found myself struggling to meet self-imposed deadlines, let alone also managing to keep up with some of the wonderful things written by my colleagues.

So today, as we head into Yom Kippur, the most solemn day of the Jewish year which brings opportunities for deep introspection, I share a short round-up of the pieces that I feel are most worth reading (or re-reading) as you finish your preparations:

The Inclusion Confession by Rabbi Rebecca Schorr

And one more thought from my wise friend and colleague, Rabbi Ken Carr:
"Fasting on Yom Kippur is a call to a higher level of ethical behavior. It is a signal to recognize the responsibility we bear to other people. It is a shofar blast awakening us to our ability to improve the lives of those who need our help. This true fast is not easy, certainly not as easy as simply not eating and drinking. If our fasting is easy, then the fast will not have served its real purpose. So let us not wish each other a tzom kal, an easy fast; instead, let us wish each other a tzom tov, a good fast, a productive fast, a meaningful fast that leads us to action on behalf of those less fortunate than ourselves."

I wish each of you a tzom tov, a good fast. May this be a meaningful holiday for those who observe.

#BlogElul 28 – Give: Many Voices Make Us Stronger

None of us can be everything to every person. Nor should we even try. I know that I have the ability to inspire others with my writing, but I also know that I am far from the only blogger writing about inclusion or even Jewish inclusion.

Collaboration helps successful inclusion to thrive in organizations, congregations and schools. There are a number of blogs and writers exploring issues of inclusion in the Jewish world, and I think the collection of our voices helps to make us stronger.

As we near the end of Elul, I want to give a nod to an outstanding piece written by Lisa Tobin, the Director of the Disabilities Initiative at the Foundation for Jewish Camp, on The NY Jewish Week’s New Normal Blog: Preparing For High Holidays Services With A Child Who Has Special Needs.

I relish the opportunity to give credit to those who are doing the important and holy work of inclusion!