Due to the current economic climate, budget cuts have reduced or eliminated special education programs in many Torah institutions. Educators and parents are currently at a loss about how to provide quality special education services in an economically affordable manner.
Consequently, many Jewish children with ADHD, dyslexia, and other learning disabilities are unable to take possession of their rightful portion of the Torah; statistically, 10 – 20% of children fall into this category. As a result, they often become children at risk.
Thanks to modern technology, special education instruction can now be effectively delivered to schools online. Scranton Hebrew Day School initiated an Online Resource Room, which provides live, interactive instruction via SKYPE and screen sharing technology. This method provides a venue for schools, parents, and philanthropic organizations to share the costs of special education instruction in a manageable way. Likewise, schools that are located outside of cities with a large Jewish population can enjoy access to services that were previously available only in major Jewish cities.
Students are evaluated online and an individualized learning program is designed in collaboration with the parents, regular teachers, and the student. The cost of the sessions is split three ways – between the parents, schools, and subsidies. This creates an affordable model in which the costs are shared. Likewise, schools could have access to high quality special education instructors at a fraction of the cost. The fact that both schools and parents assume part of the responsibility for these services attracts future funding sources such as federations and matching grant programs. This will enable most schools and families to benefit from the program while maintaining its financial viability.
In the long-term, proper early intervention produces successful and productive adults who will contribute to the economic stability of the Orthodox community. The families who currently pay large sums for tutors or other services will be able to contribute some of the money that they will save through this program to their local schools. Finally, the “shared responsibility” model of the Online Resource Room as well as its technological model will serve as a successful prototype for other programs to emulate.
For more information contact Rabbi Yaakov Aichenbaum at firstname.lastname@example.org