I have great admiration for Howard Blas who is the trailblazer in this field. Howard has spearheaded special needs camping for the National Ramah Camping Movement (a branch of the Jewish Theological Seminary – Conservative Movement) for decades. He has enabled this camping movement to set the bar in terms of excellence, caring and community development in terms of camping that is inclusive and directive for the special needs of young adults, even creating programming that enables campers and their families to have needs met (social,vocational, health etc) year round and when thinking young adulthood.
Although the Ramah Camps are limited in terms of the specific demographic they serve, it is a testament to that movement and to Howard that such deep, fine thinking has been done and continues to shape the lives of individuals, their families and communities. The well-developed and ever-responsive model is exemplary and worth learning about, even to then use it to evaluate other programs. The fact that it is also nonprofit and has enormous community support due to how life changing it is (including for ‘typical’ campers who get to know the other campers through daily shared experiences) is just spot-on!
You can speak directly with Howard about how he envisions camp for ASD participants and others with unique profiles, and also check out his blogs and articles. It will get you thinking about what to look for and how effective, fun and caring programming can be rolled out in a well considered,professional, warm manner.
Rebecca Mannis, Ph.D.Learning Specialist in Neuroscience & Education
What a journey! It has been so special to watch you and O connect, share interests, study and laugh. You’ve inspired him to learn, encouraged him to try and truly expanded both his knowledge and interest in so many things. The Bar Mitzvah itself was evidence of how meaningful Jewish study, practice and ritual has become for him and how much you have done to make it all happen.
You have become a friend, mentor, and teacher to me and to O and I looking forward to the continued growth of our relationship for years to come. Thank you for making the bar mitzvah so beautiful, spiritual, and meaningful and for making it such a special day for O and our entire family. .
Howard I just wanted to extend my heartfelt thanks to you and your staff. J had such a amazing time with all of you and she learned so much about whoshe is, including some Hebrew love it!!! She absolutely loves Israel and can’t wait to go back. Her experiences in Israel opened her to so much of who she is. I thank you so much for that. Please keep in touch with our family. We would love to be involved in all programs that brings such great experiences to all.
A and JParents of J
We can not thank you enough for the opportunity of a lifetime that you provided for our son, E, over the last 10 days. He got to see/experience/taste/hear/smell/enjoy so much that he would have never gotten to with us or with any other group. One of the fringe benefits of the trip is the relationship he developed with Isaac and Jacob (the non biblical ones, that is!) … E will be forever enriched by the gift you gave him.
G and RParents
Thank you for all you did to make this Israel trip a great one! Our daughter, N, had a fantastic time.!! I’ve only heard great things from her and I’m sure many more wonderful memories will surface over the next few weeks. I think it was a confidence building experience for her and I think she learned a lot. We just want to share our appreciation with you and the others! And to Birthright!!! Thank you!
N and JParents
Howard’s unique and personalized approach for bar and bat mitzvah celebrations is the model for the future. Though he worked with my daughter Ilana for 10 years in total. The 2 years leading up to the bat mitzvah was pivotal. He kept the sessions interesting by varying the subject material and using interactive things like Internet, Jewish cultural events and newsworthy subjects like Ilan Ramon to engage my daughter at her level. We communicated regularly by phone and email about strategies and adjusting the direction over the years. He is sweet, focused and on time. Reliable builds trusting relationship with student and parents and ultimately holds the hands of everyone to achieve a customized and personal event at the financial, spiritual, intellectual and cultural level of each child and family. People cried that day. One boy from a completely non religious family was do inspired at 12 years old that he informed his parents that he too wanted to have a bar mitzvah. Howard gained a new student and family and a year later that boy from a hone with no mezuzah or any jewish content at all in the home had a bar mitzvah with rented Torahs!
There is not a week that goes by that I don’t think of Max’s bar mitzvah. I thank you for your help, professionalism, patience and caring. You have given us all a great gift.