My best friend is autistic” Amy told her Mother. My online bat mitzvah student Amy, came home one day from school and told her Mother that her best friend for 5 years was given the diagnosis of autism. My student’s friend was having considerable difficulty in school and was recently getting very bad grades which led to a lot of stress and humiliation. Amy was so kind and sensitive to her friend, always trying to help her study and sharing her notes and it was actually a bit of a relief to get a formal diagnosis. Amy told me that at Hebrew school she had met a few years back a student with autism – and now, Amy wants to support autism as part of her mitzvah project for her bat mitzvah. At CoolCantor I teach my online bar and bat mitzvah students how to sing a Torah portion confidently, and we also learn how to make an impact in the world by looking for ways to be kind. That’s when Amy and I did some research and found Best Buddies International. They are a nonprofit organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
The IDD community that Best Buddies serves includes, but is not limited to, people with Down syndrome, autism, Fragile X, Williams syndrome, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury and other undiagnosed disabilities.
Best Buddies is the world’s largest organization dedicated to ending the social, physical and economic isolation of the 200 million people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Their programs empower the special abilities of people with IDD by helping them form meaningful friendships with their peers, secure successful jobs, live independently, improve public speaking, self-advocacy and communication skills, and feel valued by society.
Best Buddies Middle Schools fosters one-to-one friendships between middle school students with and without IDD, in which they share interests, experiences, and activities. Students with IDD are often isolated and left out of social activities. Best Buddies Middle Schools helps to create an inclusive middle school culture for all students early on in their educational development.
My bat mitzvah student decided that for her bat mitzvah, she was going to donate a percentage of her bat mitzvah gift money to this worthy cause to help with the costs associated with lining up and supporting a best buddy and a middle school student.