by Madelyn Schaeffer,

TAP teen, Adath Israel

I have known the special needs child whom I am currently working with at my Hebrew School for about a year or two. I’ve worked at the camp that he goes to over the summer for years and I was even an assistant teacher in his older brothers classroom in the past. When I was assigned to this kid, this silly and hyper little boy, I didn’t think much of it; I thought teaching Alex would be like any other experience I’ve had with special needs kids, I thought I would need more patience than I would knowledge. Alex did more than surprise me; Alex caught me off guard with his smile that instantly filled his face every time he read a word right, remembered a tricky vowel, was able to sing a prayer for the class, I realized quickly that anything that allowed Alex to come out of his shell and participate with the class made him happier than being taken out of the class to work one on one, something I had done often in the past with special needs kids, would ever be able to make him.

Sometimes I feel as though I am not a good enough teacher for Alex. There is no doubt in my mind that during this school year Alex has taught me more than I will ever be able to teach him. Yes, I know that Alex has drastically improved in his Hebrew School class, he can read more words than ever before and will soon participate, along with the rest of his classmates, in leading a Friday night service for the congregation at our shul. Even with this considered, I have learned from the silly, hyper little boy that was handed off to me that special-needs cannot define a person. Alex is a very special boy, although he sometimes needs help reading and focusing on his  work, he is more special than I ever could have thought.