by Matthew Ladov,
Temple Sinai

This is now my second year working with a child with autism and I am proud to be in this position. I use the word “proud” to describe being a TAP teen because I have been given the chance to witness first hand that these children are smart, loyal and caring.

Last year, I had the opportunity to work with Jacob, a twelve-year-old boy approaching his Jewish rite of passage. I began working with him in November, 2014 until he achieved the milestone of becoming a Bar Mitzvah in March, 2015. I sat as a guest and watched him brilliantly recite his portion. Jacob was very low on the spectrum and had a very hard time communicating with others.

This year as an official TAP teen, I am currently shadowing a high functioning, first grader named Nathan. Nathan is one of the sweetest boys I have ever met. I’m not usually one to remember many things but I remember after my first day with Nathan, he had asked me “will you be here again next week?” with a big smile on his face. He works at the same level as all of the other students in his class and is very excited about the lessons we do. Nathan is a very, very nice boy and I really do consider him a friend despite our age difference. He is very personable and has an incredibly wide range of interests. He always has a question about something new and is always happy to learn. More often than him asking questions is him answering them. He knows so many things about stuff that I’ve never heard of and I’m ten years older than him. Nathan is a truly spectacular boy to work with and I’m glad that I was given the chance to work beside him.

I feel so lucky to have been nominated and accepted into the TAP program and learn how these kids are so special for reasons other than their disabilities. Each one of the boys has left a mark on me, one that I will proudly carry with me into my future. Being a TAP teen allows me to be with children every week without it feeling like work. Without being in this program I wouldn’t have met Nathan and I’m very glad that I have been given the chance to become his friend and help him learn and grow. I hope that both boys will remember me long past our time together, as I know it was a wonderful experience for me.