by Annika Eisner
Being a part of the TAP program has really had an impact on me. As soon as I heard about it, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. One of the main reasons for this is that my younger sister has multiple disabilities, and I wanted to learn more about different types of disabilities other than hers and strategies to help. TAP gave me the confidence to agree to help out with a weekly book club at my high school for the special education class. They meet after school, and it isn’t required, it’s just those that want to be there. Before TAP, I was hesitant to get involved with something like this, because I wasn’t sure how to act around them and didn’t think I’d be good at it. After learning everything I did at TAP, when I was approached again about helping out with the book club, I agreed. And I’m so glad I did. The kids there are just like everyone else, they just face additional challenges. I love getting to talk with them and get to know them, and see how happy they are when they get an answer right or read a section aloud to the group. Before TAP, I never would have had the confidence to do something like that.
At Hebrew School, although I don’t work with a specific child with disabilities, I’ve had some experiences with different children, and the strategies I learned at TAP definitely helped me to feel better equipped to know how to act. I love being a Madricha, and I’ve realized that the strategies we learned do not only apply to kids with special needs, but can be helpful when working with any child. For example, one day when working through a reading packet in Hebrew with one sixth grader, he got bored and asked me if there was any way to make it more fun. I got a die with Hebrew letters, we assigned them each a number, and he rolled for the page and line. It wasn’t much, but it broke up the reading and gave him a little extra to do, and we were able to get through the rest of the packet. Although he had no disabilities, this strategy helped. I used the same strategy a few weeks later when working one-on-one with a child who did have a learning disability, and it helped then, too.
TAP has taught me so much about working with kids with special needs, and just kids overall. I know I will continue to use these strategies at Hebrew School, public school, and the real world.