This week the next edition of the “Disability Blog Carnival is to be posted, and the topic is “Holidays”. I sat and wondered to myself “What in the world is there to write about Ricki and holidays (chagim in Hebrew)? Ricki celebrates chagim with the rest of the family, just like everyone else. Well, almost.
I remember the first year that Ricki was in a play group, and I was eagerly anticipating the fun that she would have on Purim*, usually the most-loved-by-children- of all holidays. I had lovingly sewn for her a costume of a “tut” (strawberry), and we were well prepared for the upcoming celebrations. That is, until Ricki came down with a severe case of pneumonia. Thus a few days before Purim, I was going to visit Ricki in the hospital (my husband was there with her). As I watched the carnival atmosphere, grade school students prancing to school in their costumes, tears filled my eyes as I wondered why my daughter who had so much to contend with in life had to miss out on the festival of Purim. [In retrospect, if she HAD to miss Purim one year, I was glad it was then, when she was too young, probably, to really realize what she was missing. And to the credit of the Ezer MiTzion organization, Ricki and her older sister (see HERE),(who was watching Ricki for a few hours on Purim afternoon, so that her father could go hear the reading of the book of Ester), received a visit replete with singing and sweets.]**
[Ricki dressed as a "moon" one purim, "moon" being one of the global words that she knew at that time....]
But by and large, Ricki celebrates the holidays with us, doing (and enjoying) all. She goes to synagogue (for a short while) on Rosh HaShana, with a special prayer book I make for her. She fasts (or almost does) on Yom Kippur. She prepares decorations for the sukkah, and eats matzoth on Passover. However, it DOES take preparation.
Here are some ideas to help you prepare your child with an intellectual disability for the holidays:
-matching lotto cards (picture /picture or word/picture) to introduce concepts and vocabulary
- homemade books about the upcoming holiday, so they know what to expect, pertinent laws, etc. [See HERE for an article I wrote about teaching materials. It contains instructions on how to make homemade books.] Any holiday involving the use of candles should have the topic of fires and fire safety discussed as well.
- a calendar of the day(s) of the holiday (and days leading up to it), ideally with pictures of events, so the child can see when things are to occur
- for slightly older children, a time line (similar to the calendar) (with picture cards to match) of days ( or even parts of days), so he can match the pictures to the time, to teach the sequence of events.
[Picture credits: Seder night "Iturei Halacha"/Burning chometz a Hebrew book "___and Molly (I think) Prepare for Peasch" / Search for chometz from drawings of Yoni Greshtein. Please do NOT copy. They are here purely for educational example, not for use. I allowed myself to use these images for Ricki's use, as I PURCHASED the books. If you want to use the images, you should do the same.]
These items take time to make, but are good for use over a few years (laminate them!). [ I get out every year for a quick review books I made for Ricki a few years ago explaining detailed laws of Passover, for example.]
*Purim- a Jewish holiday in early spring, celebrating the deliverance of the Jews from annihilation in the time of Ester (see Biblical Book of Ester). The holiday is celebrated with gifts of food to friend, relatives, and neighbors, gift of alms to the poor, and the reading of the Book of Ester. Children generally dress up on this holiday in costumes (as well as at school parties in the days preceding it).
** [Her older sister, though, unfortunately witnessed that day the arrival to the hospital of a victim (“moderately” hurt) from a suicide bombing. The sight was not pretty, and it was not a very auspicious end to her Purim, to say the least.]