You Have Probably Never Met Anyone Like Me by Jacob Artson

You have probably never met anyone like me who can’t speak but can communicate by typing on the computer.  I am an example of how someone can be impaired in one area but have great strengths in another.  That is true of most people, but it is true in the extreme about people with autism.

When I was diagnosed at age 3, I couldn’t speak or move my body properly, and 15 years later I am still extremely impaired in both areas.  But if success is measured by being a mensch and helping make this world a better place, then I would classify myself as a success.  You can be the judges.

When I turned 6, my family moved to LA in search of opportunities for me.  Our journey took us to many purported experts, but they all saw me as merely my extremely impaired verbal and motor abilities and assumed my cognitive abilities must be similarly nonexistent.   After several months, me and my parents came to the last place on our list — the “autism doctor.”  I am not really sure what I was expecting,  but Dr. Ricki looked nothing like I expected.  She wore a fashionable sweater with a colorful necklace.  But mostly I noticed her smile.  I had been to so many doctors at that point I couldn’t even remember all their names or specialties.  But not one had ever smiled at me like Dr. Ricki.  She kept smiling, watching and waiting for me.  For the first time in my life, I was able to smile back. I stayed for an hour and we played with puppets, but mostly I was just watching Dr. Ricki in complete fascination.  I had expected that she would have some medicine or treatment to prescribe and that would be the end of the appointment.  But she said nothing about any pills or therapies.  She just smiled at me for an hour as though I was a person worthy of respect and dignity.  I had always thought of myself as a defective human being.  It had never occurred to me that a doctor would see me as a person with the potential to be a productive member of society.

At that transforming moment, Dr. Ricki taught me that despite my disability, I was as worthy of love and respect as any other child.  That smile gave me hope, and hope gave me the motivation to begin the battle to conquer autism before it destroyed me.  So I began my journey of millions of small steps.   Along the way I found supporters as well as detractors, and the steps sometimes did not appear to be going forward, but I persevered because I had hope and people who believed I could fly.  Today those steps brought me to blog for you.

So that is my story.  I think it is also the story of many autistic kids I have met and many poor black and Hispanic kids I have known at school.   I think most kids who fail do so for the same reason I did –- I didn’t believe I was capable or worthy of success.

What makes a child believe in himself or herself?  These are the factors that have made a difference in my life:

First and foremost, my family has never wavered in their belief that I am a child of God with an equal claim to dignity and respect as any typically developing child.  I know that it has taken a heavy toll on them, but it has been a lifesaver for me.  My twin sister is my best friend, fashion consultant, role model and cheerleader.  My mom has been my tireless advocate and my rock.  My Abba, whom I adore more than anyone on earth, has given me a model to strive to emulate.

Second, I have been blessed to have many wonderful mentors throughout my life, including teachers, Dr. Ricki, my horseback riding instructor, the coaches at my basketball programs and, most recently, my new adult case manager.   All these people believed I could achieve greatness despite my body’s limitations and the naysayers around them.  Kids with special needs don’t need to be reinforced like dogs with good job and good listening and similar phrases as if we are in puppy obedience training.   What we need instead is stimulation, patience, and someone to believe in us and notice our little triumphs.

Third, I have found great support in God and Torah.  I think that people vastly underestimate the importance of spirituality for people with special needs.  Of course I have some friends who are confirmed atheists, but many more for whom Judaism is a lifeline.  My body and emotions are very disorganized, but the one time that my mind, body and emotions feel totally connected and in harmony is when I pray.   I have also learned many important lessons from listening to my rabbis’ sermons because we all need to live with meaning and know that we are not alone in our struggles.

Finally, Judaism has taught me the importance of gratitude.  For much of my life, my existence was controlled by autism.  Autism was at the root of every experience I had or didn’t have.  I lived with constant anger at my disability and fear that it would isolate me forever.   Then one day several years ago, my wonderful physician and mentor, Dr. Ricki Robinson, asked me what is the opposite of anger.   I realized that it is not the absence of anger, but rather acceptance, laughter and joy.  I also realized that fear and anger just produces more fear and anger, while acceptance brings connection to God and humanity.  For many years I had been praying for God to cure my autism and wondering why God didn’t answer my prayer.  I realized at that point that I had been praying for the wrong reason.  I started to pray for the strength to accept autism and live with joy, laughter and connection.  My prayers were answered more richly than I ever imagined!  Sometimes I still hate autism, but now I love life more than I hate autism.

But there is one part that is still incomplete before I can truly believe in myself and that is a sense of belonging.  Everyone needs a sense of belonging and many of you probably are involved in your Jewish community for precisely that reason.  In Los Angeles, there are now several wonderful programs for Jewish kids with special needs, and they deserve your support.   My peers and I have been fortunate to have had inclusive opportunities in part due to the fact that our typically developing peers had to fulfill their community service requirements.  But now my peers are adults too, so there are no more community service requirements and no one to reach out to all of us formerly cute kids who are now trying to make our way in the world as adults.   I love my autistic friends, but I do not want to spend the rest of my life in a special needs cocoon.

So here are some “mensch” ideas I would like to propose for your consideration:

1.  Inclusion isn’t just about me, it is about everyone.   I have seen the incredible stress my family has endured because of me, and being excluded from our Jewish community, or having to constantly fight to be accepted as part of it, has greatly magnified our stress.  After ten years, we finally left our synagogue and joined a new one where people smile at me even if I am sometimes too loud or excited and no one stares at me like I am a piece of trash.   The kids engage with me even when they are not getting community service credit for doing so.   I often wonder how many non-disabled families have the same experience of feeling ignored in their synagogue.  The truth is that a shul that welcomes me is a synagogue where everyone can find a place and people will want to join and be engaged and involved.  This is not something a rabbi can do alone because one of the rabbis at our prior synagogue was and continues to be very supportive of me personally.  A synagogue is a community and we all have to reach out to support each other.

2  The best peers and aides I have had didn’t have any special background.  It doesn’t actually take any training to be a leader who models inclusion.  It just takes an attitude that all people are made in God’s image and it is our job to find the part of God hidden in each person.

3.  My favorite Jewish holiday is Passover because it is the story of our people’s journey from degradation to liberation.  That is the story of my life and the lives of many of my autistic friends.   Our lives are not determined by where we start.  God lures us to find our gifts and to choose liberation.  My journey has taken me through the desert and toward the Promised Land.  I look forward to our journey together toward the day when we can all stand together at Mt. Sinai as one people, the day when everyone is included and together we bring God’s glory to all of humanity.

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45 Comments

Filed under Honorable Mentschen

45 responses to “You Have Probably Never Met Anyone Like Me by Jacob Artson

  1. harvey braunstein

    Go go, Jacob.
    All people, all voices are unique.
    Some are simply more unique than others.
    Not the first time I have heard Jacob speak and hopefully not the last.

    The Plains Indians belived that all children were special to the Great Spirit.
    But the ones that were impaired mentally were held by the Great Spirit to be most dear to him.
    And so they were esteemed and honored by the Tribe in ways not common to other cultures.

    We live in a world and a culture that prizes success and forward movement.
    We have no time to look around.
    Only when we force ourselves, do we hear the sounds and the voices that are everpresent and simply waiting to be heard.

    I will print this and read an excerpt or two at our evolving unconventional seder.

    harvey braunstein

  2. Brian Frisch

    What a wonderful and inspirational story. As the father of a terriffic daughter (now 24) who was born with a physical birth defect, I can relate to many of the themes about acceptance and dignity and respect. Surrounding ourselves with people in our lives who can promote those feelings (has) and will make us all better people and better Jews. Thank you for sharing your beautiful words with us.

  3. As someone whose wife teaches students with special needs, and whose godson is autistic, I can only say “Yasher koach” and “Todah rabah” for having shared your story.

    “All people are made in God’s image and it is our job to find the part of God hidden in each person.” Amen v’amen, Jacob!

  4. Miriam Van Raalte

    Jacob – I had the extreme privilege of working with your dad for a couple of years in Mission Viejo … before you were born. How lucky you are to have him as your Abba, and how lucky he and your mom are to have you as their son. You are an inspiration, and I have no doubt that you will lead our people into the Promised Land. As my dear friend Debbie Friedman (z’l) once said, “We all have disabilities. Some are just more visible than others.” I have used that lesson to remind myself that we all deserve to live in a safe environment where we can feel loved for who we are, made in the image of God. May you go from strength to strength! (and give your parents a big hug from me)

    • Jacob, I knew you before you were “diagnosed” and have watched you grow into a mentch and one who shares your personal thoughts, feelings and experiences. I watched you take some of those “millions of small steps” and am happy to know that you can now say, “I love life more than I hate autism.” Your comments about Judaism being a lifeline and your mind, body and emotions feel totally connected and in harmony when you pray, confirms one of the many strong feelings that I have and why, for almost 25 years, I have continued to direct the Shaare Tikva program along with the many other OurSpace programs at Valley Beth Shalom and Temple Aliyah. Judaism offers a meaningful structure to our lives but the spirituality comes from within and I have found that people with “special needs” are blessed with a spiritual soul, have a strong connection to God and understand “B’tzelem Elochim more than most.” I am happy to say that the OurSpace programs continue to offer your “mentch ideas” and have been doing so for almost 25 years.
      I’d like to share some reflections from some of your peers, what OurSpace participants shared at their graduation/Havdalah ceremony:
      “Many of my friends I met when I started Shaare Tikva many years ago. Whenever I see them they make me smile. My friends are nice and they care about me. I can share with them how I am feeling. I also go to Camp Ramah with some of my Shaare Tikva friends and we have created our own Havurah. Our parents met each other at Shaare Tikva and now they are also friends. We have Shabbat dinners; celebrate Jewish holidays and other special occasions together.”
      “I like the song L’Dor Va’Dor, from generation to generation, a wonderful song that reminds me of all the great traditions that my family has passed down to me. The hand movements in the service help me understand the importance of the prayers. In the Amidah, we take three steps back and then three steps forward to allow us to get into a special, quiet space and I really enjoy that part of the service.”
      “I learn Hebrew and about being Jewish when I come to Shaare Tikva. I go to the B’Yachad youth program to do different activities with my friends, and to USY Hevrah events. During the summer I go to Camp Ramah and this year I will be a member of the Ezra staff program again. Shaare Tikva means Gates of Hope. VBS has opened the gates and doors for me and my friends to be involved in all of these programs and in our community just like the rest of my family. I am happy that next year there will be a program for me, as a young adult, I can continue learning more about Judaism through the arts in the Artistic Spectrum of Jewish Learning program.”
      Thoughts from parents of OurSpace participants:
      “For our son, Shaare Tikva has been the path to becoming fully included in the Jewish community, acceptance and having a place to belong.”
      “The programs have provided three important elements for our son, and all of our lives: Community, Judaism and Friends. As a result of our son’s participation in Shaare Tikva and other OurSpace programs, he has developed a connection to his religion, his culture and to friends that will last a lifetime.”
      “Our son never complained about getting up on Sunday mornings to come to Shaare Tikva. He has experienced Jewish learning in a joyful setting, with classmates who have become his closest friends.”
      “I’ve always wanted to raise my children with a strong religious foundation and OurSpace Shaare Tikva made that possible for me. You have given them a Jewish identity, taught Jewish traditions and created opportunity for our whole family to be a part of a community.”
      I hope that your mentch ideas and what OurSpace offers can and will reach many people that are searching for the same opportunities in their lives.

  5. Jacob, I knew you before you were “diagnosed” and have watched you grow into a mentch and one who openly shares your personal thoughts, feelings and experiences. I watched you take some of those “millions of small steps” and am happy to know that you can now say, ” I love life more than I hate autism.” Your comments about Judaism being a lifeline and your mind, body and emotions feel totally connected and in harmony when you pray, confirms one of the many strong feelings that I have and why, for almost 25 years, I have continued to direct the Shaare Tikva program along with the many other OurSpace programs at Valley Beth Shalom and Temple Aliyah. Judaism offers a meaningful structure to our lives but the spirituality comes from within and I have found that people with “special needs” are blessed with a spiritual soul, have a strong connection to God and understand “B’tzelem Elochim more than most.” I am happy to say that the OurSpace programs continue to offer your “mentch ideas” and have been doing so for almost 25 years.
    I’d like to share some thoughts from your peers, some OurSpace participants:
    “Many of my friends I met when I started Shaare Tikva many years ago. Whenever I see them they make me smile. My friends are nice and they care about me. I can share with them how I am feeling. I also go to Camp Ramah with some of my Shaare Tikva friends and we have created our own Havurah. Our parents met each other at Shaare Tikva and now they are also friends. We have Shabbat dinners; celebrate Jewish holidays and other special occasions together.”
    “I like the song L’Dor Va’Dor, from generation to generation, a wonderful song that reminds me of all the great traditions that my family has passed down to me. The hand movements in the service help me understand the importance of the prayers. In the Amidah, we take three steps back and then three steps forward to allow us to get into a special, quiet space and I really enjoy that part of the service.”
    “I learn Hebrew and about being Jewish when I come to Shaare Tikva. I go to the B’Yachad youth program to do different activities with my friends, and to USY Hevrah events. During the summer I go to Camp Ramah and this year I will be a member of the Ezra staff program again. Shaare Tikva means Gates of Hope. VBS has opened the gates and doors for me and my friends to be involved in all of these programs and in our community just like the rest of my family. I am happy that next year there will be a program for me, as a young adult, I can continue learning more about Judaism through the arts in the Artistic Spectrum of Jewish Learning program.”
    Thoughts from some parents of OurSpace participants:
    “For our son, Shaare Tikva has been the path to becoming fully included in the Jewish community, acceptance and having a place to belong.”
    “The programs have provided three important elements for our son, and all of our lives: Community, Judaism and Friends. As a result of our son’s
    participation in Shaare Tikva and other OurSpace programs, he has developed a connection to his religion, his culture and to friends that will last a lifetime.”
    “Our son never complained about getting up on Sunday mornings to come to Shaare Tikva. He has experienced Jewish learning in a joyful setting, with classmates who have become his closest friends.”
    “I’ve always wanted to raise my children with a strong religious foundation and OurSpace Shaare Tikva made that possible for me. You have given them a Jewish identity, taught them Jewish traditions and created opportunity for our whole family to be a part of a community.”
    I hope that your mentch ideas and what OurSpace offers can and will reach many people and will help children and adults that are searching for the same opportunities in their lives. http://www.ourspacela.org

  6. Steven Henkin

    Your story is a true inspiration to everybody, Jacob, whether they have autism, mental illness, or any other issue that makes life more difficult for them. It sounds like you have grasped some of the core concepts of living a happy, Jewish, spiritual life at a relatively young age; many of us are significantly older and still struggling to fully accept and practice love and gratitude the way you describe it. Keep inspiring us, no matter what platform you use to do so and remember that we love you. I look forward to seeing you again soon.

  7. Ellen

    Thank you for your words of pure truth and deep wisdom. I will share your message in my own teaching and in my heart as I continue to teach teens and adults.

  8. Thanks Jacob for sharing. My grandson Joseph, who is high functioning autistic, has been living with me and my husband for the past 10 years. When he was younger he was very unhappy and not functioning very well. We showered him with love, with structure and that combined with a good school has him now enrolled in his 3rd year at college. He is striving to be an Ocean Engineer. He still, though, keeps himself isolated except for our family, school and the gym where he works out 4-5 times a week. I hope someday he’ll be able to share his story, his feelings as articulately as you do. Yasher Koach – Happy Pesach. Many blessings, Jackie

  9. HAROLD NISSEN

    To Mr. Jacob Artson;
    You are a success and you should be proud of yourself.

  10. Barbara Artson

    My dearest grandson,
    Why does it take an essay to remind me that you are such a special person, a wonderful, thoughtful, and beautiful young man. I know that without reading your words, but then I read your words and know it more profoundly. Your soul-searching eyes and your soul-touching words, as always, bring tears to my eyes and touch my heart deeply.

    • Abby Moreinis Field

      Barbara, I hope this gets to you in this round-about way. I also hope you remember me – Abby Moreinis Field from Teaneck High School. I recently was emailed a video and some pictues of the 60th Reunion, and was wondering who might like to see them. I tried looking for your email address and while doing that, came across an article on aol today titled “Jewish Covenent of Love” by none other than your son. From there I got to an essay by your grandson, Jacob, and then to your lovely note to him from March 24th. If you are interested in viewing the reunion video and pics, email me. And Happy New Year.

  11. An exquisite message, that needs to be heard. Thank you, Jacob. As the proud mother of an Asperger’s autistic and disability rights activist, I extend a heartfelt Yashar Koach to you for so beautifully stating your Ani Ma’amin and sharing your personal experience. May you go from strength to strength.
    - Rina Ne’eman

  12. Joan Small

    Dear Jacob,
    I recently had the opportunity to hear your Father, Rabbi Artson, speak. He mentioned his son with, what I felt, was great devotion. I can understand his feeling now. You are a blessing to the lives you touch. Your beautiful soul touched me in a way that I will never be able to explain. From my heart, thank you so much for your wisdom and truth and for opening my eyes.

  13. Marni

    Dear Jacob,

    We have not met, though I know your father from a while ago. I stumbled across your blog on a posting on Facebook and it has taken my breath away – literally. The man that you are – with the courage that you have – is such an incredible gift. I have recently had the opportunity to become close friends with a woman named Naomi Stuchiner who established an organization in Israel called Beit Issie Shapiro, which is a recreational center for children with special needs and other children that specifically believes in inclusion of special needs into the general society with love and acceptance. Your life is such an incredible shining example of this and I will be sharing your blog with her.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    Shabbat Shalom from Israel,
    Marni

  14. Nancy

    Jacob

    I am not Jewish, but a friend shared the link to your essay on her Facebook page, and reading it brought tears to my eyes. May every “normal” person be as enlightened. I am going to share your writing on my own FB page and hope my friends and family read it. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

    Nancy

  15. karen

    Jacob I was once a Member of Congregation Eilat and remember you as a baby in your Fathers arms parading around with the Torah. Your writing inspired me so much. You have a beautiful soul and you are making a difference in so many peoples lives by sharing your story. I have shared this with all 3 my daughters and they have passed this on to many friends. My middle daughter is a Special Ed teacher and she has emailed this to all the teachers in her school. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Keep writing you are a very wonderful person.
    Karen

  16. Rhoda Unger

    Dear Jacob,

    I enjoy being with you and your family all of the time. You are a great inpiration to me. I can’t wait until you are at the riding show in Pasadena, please let me know,
    Love
    RHODA

  17. Eitan Green

    you are so brave and I encourage you to keep it up forever and ever

    p.s.
    my cousin, Ari K. is your Abba’s student
    p.p.s.
    I have ADHD and you inspired me. I am 11
    years old. keep going!!!!!!!

  18. Hi Jacob,
    I love this writing. It is so thoughtful, so clear, and so important.
    Thank you for your joy which touches me everytime am a privileged to be in your presence.
    Your spirit shines so bright and beautiful in this world.
    Jackie

  19. cheryl peretz

    Dearest Jacob –

    You never cease to amaze me!!! You are my teacher, my friend, my inspiration! Thank you for sharing yourself with all of us and for continuing to challenge each of us to find the best within ourselves!

    Sending love,

    Cheryl

  20. Deborah

    Dear Jacob,

    While I had often heard about your father, I didn’t have a chance to hear him speak until recently. And he spoke about you, and without having met you, you have already taught me so much!
    To be specific, your father said: “there are two kinds of people in the world, those who have a disability, and those who *will* have a disability”. And then, he was telling a story about someone asking you what’s the best way to treat a sibling with a disability, and you responded, “don’t cut him any slack”. Those two teachings have been very meaningful to me and I keep repeating them to people that I talk to.

    I hope to meet you and learn more from you. You seem like a fantastic young man who has a lot to contribute to the world.

  21. Ashley M

    Wow, Jacob! You truly are an inspiration! Keep it up!!!!

    A reader from Texas

  22. Gerry Gorelick

    Dear Jacob,
    Boy, you’re going to be busy reading a lot of posts here, I expect!
    Yi-yasher koch’kha. May your strength (continue to) increase. Thank you for what you have written and shared with us.
    You are not only a mensch, you are a gifted teacher. Keep teaching “us.”
    I put that in quotes because the word might otherwise imply that there is you, and us, two separate groups in the world. The truth, as you’ve conveyed so well, is that you are a person on this planet, and so am I, and so are all your readers. No more, no less. Yes, I probably have never met anyone like you. And the trick is for me/you/all of us to remember that is true for every other individual whom every one of us comes in contact with.
    I am grateful today for being a person on this planet sharing this time and globe with you.
    Thanks.

  23. I look forward to meeting you some day, my dear cousin. Your grandfather, David’s mother, and my mother, are sisters. So we are very close. I loved reading your essay, and send my love to you and your whole family. Gud Shabbos. Cousin Abby

  24. Thanks, Jacob. יישר כח מירושלים

  25. Joanne

    Jacob,

    What a thrill and a joy it is to read your insightful and articulate thoughts. I’m the person who walks next to you and your horse and sings with you when you come to ride on Thursdays. You have the beautiful gifts of intelligence,
    compassion, and eloquence. I am so glad to have found these words- these keys- that have let me into your mind, your emotions, your intellect! I look forward to reading more, and to continuing to ride and sing with you when we are at MACH1 on the same days.

    Warmly,
    Joanne

  26. Rabbi Jackie Mates-Muchin

    Jacob,
    Thank you for telling your story. I intend to share it with members of my community in the hope that they, too, will be moved by your words.

    Judaism is inspiring to me, which is why I do what I do. Today, you have given me the gift of seeing even more potential in our tradition and in the community that practices it. If one Jewish community can create such warmth and inclusion, such a home and a place of belonging for every one of its members, then all of us can, and all of us should. Thank you for sharing your story and your insight. And, thank you for seeing the potential in all of us to do better.

  27. Pingback: Mishegaas | Jewschool

  28. Dave S.

    Jacob,

    I’m so glad that I read this story. The one thought that stuck with me most was that kids will engage with you “even though they’re not getting community service credit for it.” It must be pretty demeaning to you (and to other people) to know that people are being nice to you just to get community service credit.

    I was also struck by your comments about Dr. Ricki’s smile and its effect on you. It reminded me of a friend who introduced me to his son who was 8 years old at the time and who had autism. I paid attention to him. I smiled at him. He looked at me and started touching my head (in a playful way). His dad (my friend) said that he’d never seen his son react that way to anyone else. Smiles are truly powerful.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

  29. NANCY

    This was the second article today that I have read about a nonverbal autistic child thought to be cognitively impaired but who turned out to be extremely bright. I have two children with autism. One is high functioning and one not. Both are verbal, though one is not conversational. I do not believe that either is above average cognitively or capable of higher thinking as they both have had exceptional educations and lots of therapies (ages 10 and 12). How do I know if more ability is lurking below? I wasn’t even looking until I read your article and another one about a young man attending Oberlin who has autism.

  30. Jacob

    Thank you all for your encouragement and support!

  31. Jacob,

    Thank you for this teaching. I plan to share it with many colleagues and friends.

  32. Jacob,

    Thank you for this teaching. I plan to share it with many colleagues and friends.

    I hope you will continue to write – I think you have much wisdom to share.

  33. Joan Hersch

    Yasher Koach!! You are truly an inspiration and thank you for reminding me of the uniqueness of each one of God’s creations.

  34. Jacob, your words are beautiful and show wisdom beyond your years.
    I hope you will come with your father when he speaks at the FJMC Convention in July. I think you’ll find that there are hundreds of people who would love to meet you and ask you to join us, to be included in our chaverah.
    Yasher koach!

  35. Jacob,
    Thank you for your words of encouragement and inspiration. I’m a mom of 2 with autism, and I see glimpses of potential in my kids everyday. I hope you keep on blogging to let others without disabilities understand that every individual, despite ability, has a unique and powerful gift to be able to contribute to strengthen community.
    I’m not at liberty to share specifics, but know that your message is being shared in Georgia and hearts are more open to inclusion because of your story. Thank you.

  36. Katie

    Jacob,
    What an inspiring piece of writing you have contributed! What are your plans for your future? What field of work would you like to go into? What do you see as your biggest challenges?

    As a speech-language pathologist working with people with communication challenges, I am very interested in learning from you about what aspects of speech/language therapy you found most helpful, as well.

  37. Faith

    Jacob — your aba has been my teacher for years … thank you for becoming my teacher as well!!!!! Yasher Koach

  38. Wow! This could be one particular of the most beneficial blogs We have ever arrive across on this subject. Basically Excellent. I’m also an expert in this topic therefore I can understand your effort.
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  39. Anonymous

    Jacob, an absolutely wonderful essay. (more than just a blog!) I wonder if you would be willing for it to be reprinted in some other publications? I have read some of the writing your Dad has done, and we know each other by email, but that was a while ago. It is terrific to hear your own voice.

    Rev. Bill Gaventa

  40. I really enjoy your writing. You have a wonderful career (calling)
    ahead of you.

  41. Ariel Hurwich Braun

    Dear Jacob,
    As the mother of a Down child – Yaacov, who is 18 1/2 – I want to thank you for your clear, honest and revealing words.
    Yaacov, like you, is very special and “special” but his issues are different from yours. He is not eloquent or expressive like you are and he is not intuitive about his world. I need to thank you for what you’ve revealed to us about yourself and your community and about your friends and your prayers.
    Wishing you a Shana Tova – one of growth, health, joy and the fulfillment of every one of your dreams,
    Ariel

  42. erica

    Dear Jacob,

    Thank you for your wonderful story, I am going to read this to my kids tommorrow night as their bedtime story. Their lives also contain alot of therapies, doctor visits, meds and so on, to help treat their disease — Autism. Bravo to you for finding your “voice” and writing such a touching tribute to your parents, your doctor Ricki and your own personal strength. I loved the quote about hating autism less then loving life. That is something I try to teach my kids. Yes they have a label, a disease, disorder or whatever you want to call it but that does not make them who they are it is only a very small part of who they are :). Thank you for reminding everyone of that :).Wishing you a Shana Tova – one of growth, health, joy and the fulfillment of every one of your dreams,
    Erica, Johnny and Clara

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