Below is a heartwarming letter I recently received from a parent. It is my hope that sharing this letter will encourage parents not to give up on their children.
Yossie is a delightful child. Good-natured, care free and has lots of friends. He is the youngest of 9 children. He learned his aleph bais and kriah and just never “got it”. He is B”H a well-behaved child and whenever I voiced my concerns to his Rebbeim, the response I received was along the lines of “I don’t know. He’s fine. He’ll catch on”. He learned how to read English and again he never just “caught on ”. Year after year, we tried this tutor and that tutor. This specialist and that therapist. We explored it all, providing him with incentives to coax him along. By the time he reached the end of the summer of going into 6th grade, we knew that something drastic had to change. He was displaying frustration and annoyance with davening and anything related to learning.
Our biggest concern was his relationship with Yiddishkeit. His relationship with us, his parents, himself, and most of all with Hashem. How does a child wake up in the morning knowing that he’ll be sitting in class for hours and not know what’s flying? What motivates a child to go to school when all seems so dark and confusing? How does a child hold on to his self-esteem when he sees most of his class learning and READing while he sees blur?
Yossie clearly had struggles with his eyes. We visited numerous eye specialists hoping that the solution would be found there. Yossie did vision therapy most nights and it wasn’t easy. We did see progress but his struggles remained. And so did his disinterest in learning. He had a reading specialist that worked with him on his English reading for 2 years (besides for additional help he received in school). Between pictures and interesting books, he mostly mastered English reading although he often looked at a random word and read it totally wrong. It all just didn’t make sense. He knows how to read. He knows what he has to do. Why is it so difficult? Why isn’t he JUST READING?
His social worker and principal thought that medication would be the answer. And so, we diligently called our pediatrician if we could try medication to help him focus better. Maybe that’s the issue. Our pediatrician wisely advised us to find out what his underlying struggles were. Medication alone will not resolve his problem. Thankfully, our pediatrician read Rabbi Abenson’s articles on The Lakewood Scoop and recommended we give him a try.
We feel forever indebted to him and to Rabbi Abenson for being the messengers of Hashem to reach the heart and soul (and mind) of our dear Yossie. Before discussing the learning/teaching approach, Rabbi Abenson has a natural knack for connecting with children. He has a sense of humor that just captures them. I often hear them heartily laughing together. This is the foundation. Before any work is done, this is #1. If I ever ask him about Yossie working on an “off day” or when he’s not feeling great, the initial response is: don’t push him. Only if he wants to. Go easy on him. It’s not good to pressure him. Things like that show how he treats and views Yossie as a person. With respect. With Connection. And when doing this difficult work, one could see why this is so crucial.
Yossie had to start by reading lines from Aleph bais. Timing his speed and fluency. As Rabbi Abenson said, “we have to start from the beginning”. And for months, he diligently did what he did in pre-1-a. Challenging himself and congratulating himself on each accomplishment. “Teitching” basic words that he learned in First Grade were next. Dikduk, shoresh….. Slowly, slowly, and ever so patiently. Working daily and acquiring skills. He moves on only once a skill is fully absorbed. Thanks to his 6th-grade rebbe, Yossie is bli ayin hara thriving. His rebbe encourages him to do homework from outside the Gemara rather than frustrate him and tire him out from the reading. His rebbe builds him up from his “Havana”, and clear understanding and involves him in classroom discussion.
One day, his rebbe called us, sounding confused. He said “I thought that Yossie doesn’t know how to read. Then I was giving him a test orally and asked him to read the questions from the paper. With shock, Yossie did a fabulous job. If he could read that test paper so well, is it possible he could read Gemara too?” This question was obviously given over to Rabbi Abenson who gave us 2 ideas of things that my husband could do during homework time to help him. But as always, Rabbi Abenson reminded me “only if he wants to….” And so we spoke to Yossie about this and his response was very positive. With his rebbe being so positive and Rabbi Abenson letting him know that they could move forward, he jumped on board.
The feeling of accomplishment cannot be put into words. Perhaps the look on his face when he told me that he did 2 “amudim” over 4 nights of homework could speak for itself. When he reports to me his accomplishments with a smile on his face, I know that this is all worth it. Yossie comes home from school daily for Zoom meetings and it comes at no small cost. We’re not at the end of the road but we certainly are on the right track. His bar mitzvah is within the year and we are fully at ease knowing that he’s growing and climbing each day. He hasn’t missed a day of Shachris in Yeshiva and shares with pride that he’s among the few boys in his class who never miss Shacharis. A year ago (before he had to wake up early for Shachris), it was my morning pressure to get him out of bed and to school … Now, I don’t get to see him in the mornings. My husband wakes him up and he charges out the door. His whole demeanor is more relaxed and content. And we don’t wonder why!
Revised and expanded edition
Featuring more than 100 color pages, this book is a must-have for Parents, Roshei HaYeshiva, Kolleleit, Menahelim, and Mechanchim.
This book discusses the educational crisis that our Jewish educators and talmidim are facing today, and outlines solutions on how to fix it.
The book also discusses the current pandemic of rejection or expulsion of children from schools/Yeshivos, forcing them to public schools, anti-missionary strategies, kiruv techniques, and the viral “box child” series.
I appeal to all Litvish and Chassidishe Gedolim around the world to join forces and declare b’achdus, that rejection and expulsion from schools of our precious children must end once and for all. Hitler yemach sh’mo killed two million children. Institutions that continue to do this have blood on their hands.
Please click here for free hard copies and bulk orders with postage paid, or email if you would like a virtual copy.
For more information please contact
Rabbi Dovid Abenson
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Reserve your copy of Rabbi Abenson’s new forthcoming sefer- “I Can’t Read and Learn” (Published by Feldheim Publishers). Click HERE.
This should say paid promotion.
And if it’s not a paid promotion, then someone at TLS needs to wake up and smell the coffee
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