Last weekend, NJCD/Yachad hosted their 25th Annual Family Shabbaton at the Hudson Valley Resort in Kerhonkson, NY. Appropriately enough, there were 613 people in attendance, including more than 100 Yachad participants.
The annual Family Shabbaton provides the parents and siblings of special-needs individuals with support groups, networking, and individual time with caring professionals, who are leaders in the field. There are copious workshops covering a variety of topics, including cutting-edge responses to autism, Down syndrome, educational interventions, vocational training, social skills training, residential opportunities, financial planning, and more. Among the broad array of offerings this year were such diverse sessions as “Maintaining a Healthy Family Life,” “Keeping Individuals with Down Syndrome Healthy,” “Dating & Marriage,” “The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act,” and much more. Through such varied workshops, Yachad provides families with vital and timely information on the full spectrum of issues they may face.
Among the many talented professionals addressing the Family Shabbaton this year wereDr. Norman Blumenthal, Director of Project C.H.A.I., Chai Lifeline’s crisis intervention services department and Dr. Karen Summar, Director of The Down Syndrome Program at Children’s National Medical Center and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at George Washington University School of Medicine. Also in attendance was Dr. Shuli Sandler from the Asperger Center for Education and Training, where they develop and provide innovative services to the community of children and adults with Asperger Syndrome and their families. I was delighted to attend with Yael, who joined me in delivering what I hope were found to be inspiring shiurim.
On behalf of the entire OU family, I’d like to applaud Director Dr. Jeff Lichtman, Assistant Director Eli Hagler, and the staff of NJCD/Yachad for this annual event. In particular, I’d like to recognize the efforts of Chani Herrmann, Director of New Jersey Yachad and Outreach, who organized and executed the Family Shabbaton. As superlative as their day-to-day operations are, this particular program is indispensable when it comes to providing chizuk and much-needed information to the entire family, meeting their “special needs” in addition to those of the Yachad participants.