Learn about the Gateways B’nei Mitzvah Preparation Program, which prepares students for b’nei mitzvah with a combination of individual tutoring, classroom activities, and a weekly prayer service. Read stories from families who worked with Gateways to achieve this important milestone.
Prayers with visual supports were created to help make prayers simple, accessible, and understandable for students with a variety of disabilities. In these files, each Hebrew phrase is illustrated by a simple picture symbol (we use Mayer-Johnson Boardmaker symbols). Students with learning needs can follow along with each prayer and learn to understand its meaning using symbol prayers. Assemble these prayers into a Siddur, or use them to create file folder activities.
Sample Translated Torah Portion with Comprehension Questions
This Torah portion was turned into a booklet illustrated with Picture Communication Symbols®. Reading comprehension questions were added to help assess how well the student understood their Torah portion.
These guides can be used to support students in writing the D’var Torah for their bar/bat mitzvah by giving them tools and guidelines to express and orgainze their thoughts.
Multiple Choice D’var Torah Guide
To help a student prepare for the D’var Torah at his/her bar/bat mitzvah, this simple multiple choice worksheet asks questions about different aspects of a child’s Judaism through visual representations. This guide will allow a family or teacher to craft a meaningful d’var Torah with a student who has difficulty expressing him/herself.
Graphic organizers allow learners to visually organize known information. This graphic organizer can be used to help a bar/bat mitzvah student write a d’var Torah. It prompts the student with questions presented in logical sequence about the Torah portion itself as well as the student’s understanding of the portion.
With the proper support, all Jewish children, regardless of ability, can receive their birthright of a Jewish education and find their place as full adult members of the Jewish community. While you may have to find the right way to adapt your service for a child with learning needs, you can still create a meaningful and accessible b’nei mitzvah experience for all families in your community.
How long should I expect it to take to prepare a child with learning differences for a bar/bat mitzvah?
At Gateways, our b’nei mitzvah class is a two-year program. Yet, because each child has their own unique set of strengths and challenges, the process for may look very different from individual to individual. When planning for a student’s bar/bat mitzvah, it is important to begin by thinking about a child’s prior experiences and knowledge and to ask them and their family members what their goals and expectations for their ceremony are.
How can we structure a bar/bat mitzvah for a child who has difficulty participating in a typical service?
Some common ways of making services more accessible for children who have difficulty participating include shortening the service, incorporating additional music, and creating opportunities for children to move around or take breaks. Gateways can work with cantors, rabbis and other clergy to discuss adapting your synagogue’s typical service in order to allow a student to participate meaningfully or to build a new service around a child’s needs.
How can a child who is nonverbal participate in a service?
There are several meaningful ways that children who are not able to speak can recite prayers and participate in services. Some students may learn to recite prayers using sign language, while others lead prayers using dedicated electronic communication devices or communication apps on a smartphone or tablet. Students who are non-verbal can also actively participate in parts of the service that do not require speech, such as opening and closing the ark, carrying the Torah, and dressing and undressing the Torah.