JT reporter Victoria Brown explores how autism camps and programs can grow empathy in a difficult world. In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that the prevalence of autism had risen to 1 in every 59 births in the United States – twice as great as the 2004 rate of 1 in 125 – and almost 1 in 54 boys. “We See Things Differently” is the catch phrase for the Autism Society’s April Autism Awareness Month. The Maryland-based nonprofit seeks to educate the public about people living with autism. Orlee Krass, Tikvah Program Director at Camp Ramah in the Poconos explained the wide variety of experiences of people with autism and said, “If you met one person with autism, you’ve [only] met one person with autism.”
Living with children with autism is often different from life with neurotypical children. As Jennifer Bishop of Baltimore, a parent of a child with autism said, “Having a child with a disability can make it impossible to do simple things most people take for granted—a walk in the park, a trip to the grocery store, a visit to friends or family, a decent night’s sleep.”
For Erik Daly, treasurer of the board and chair of the finance committee at The Arc Baltimore, and the parent of a teenager with autism, sleepaway camp “Has been life-changing and we’re so grateful that we found [it.]” Inclusion sleepaway camps are camps that were originally opened for neurotypical children but have added “inclusion programs.”
“Every one of our typical kids thrived. It made our camp more empathetic, more sensitive to others,” said Rabbi Joel Seltzer, executive director of Camp Ramah in the Poconos.
JT reporter Connor Graham attended a vigil that honored the victims of genocides throughout history. Elected officials from city, state and federal government joined local social justice advocates and community members at the Lloyd Street Synagogue on April 14, for a vigil and discussion about genocide awareness and identity-based violence.
Each year the vigil is held by Together We Remember (TWR), a nonprofit based in Baltimore that aims to recognize each April as Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month in communities across the world.
In other news, JT reporter Susan Ingram explores Passover traditions, and how everything old can be made fresh and new again, thanks to many new Haggadahs and Passover books for children. For Nathan Altshuler of Pikesville, one of his fondest memories of Passover traditions that still remains the same is his father reading the Passover seder every year.
“My dad does the Seder in Russian. That is something we grew up with and makes our seder unique,” he said. “My parents’ experiences in Russia didn’t allow them to celebrate Passover, so the fact that they can, and in Russian, is memorable and incredible.”