How synagogues can be more inclusive to children with autism

Screenshot: Gesher School

By Gianna Colizza

Gesher is a new school that has opened in north-west London this term. It strives to support children with special educational needs and fill a gap between specialised education and Jewish studies.

We are a school that will educate children between reception and year two with a plan to extend to year six.

Our two co-founders were passionate about the fact there wasn’t a bridge between special educational needs and Jewish education.

We look forward to supporting children not only within our school but those who struggle with autism or related challenges within the Jewish community more widely. As a start, our deputy head, Leor Harel, will be supporting autism-friendly synagogue services, with the first due to take place at Borehamwood and Elstree Synagogue next week on September 16.

For children who might struggle with autism during a synagogue visit, here are a few tips:

  • Allow for breaks, as sitting for long periods of time can be very difficult for children struggling with attention and sensory needs. This can be a simple walk for two or three minutes every half-hour or so, depending on the child’s age.
  • Prepare children for what will be happening during the service. Have a visual schedule of how the service will run. Show them this before you attend and allow them to have access to it throughout the session.
  • This can lessen anxiety massively and the feeling of not knowing what to expect.
  • If a child has difficulties with attention, a small fidget toy may help them concentrate for longer.

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1 CommentLeave a comment

  • This is such an important step into the future. Hearing loops, large print and accessible Synagogues. Remove the stone from the blind and treat the deaf with respect. All children must have the ability to become a members of the Community. Some children need other forms of help too.

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