An Empty Chair at the Seder

by Rabbi Joe Ozarowski, D.Min., BCC
Rabbinic Counselor and Chaplain, JCFS

The Hebrew word “Seder” means order. The Seder evening and Hagada have a framework—a time for talking, a time for ritual foods, a time for dinner, a time for praising God, a time for singing, a time for engaging children, a time for questions and a time to think about possible answers. But the order of the Seder also refers to the non-ritual aspects of the evening. We often have a routine of who comes, who we might invite, where we sit, how we arrange the table, and more. These things can change from year to year, yet they are always present in some form. But what happens when the order is upended? What challenges the sense of order when a loved one who has been a part of our sacred evening is no longer with us. Where is the “seder”—the order—when the Seder has been changed, the order ripped away from us?

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JCFS Programs Working Together to Support At-Risk Moms and Babies

For most newborns and toddlers, routine doctor visits are part of their formative years. At these early wellness check-ups, babies and young children are assessed to see if they are meeting major developmental milestones such as walking and talking.  If a child is diagnosed with a developmental delay, parents and caregivers are provided with available resources that can help improve their child’s condition. 

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First Steps After Receiving an Autism Diagnosis

by Caitlin McIlwee, M.A., Psychological Services Pre-Doctoral Intern

You have just learned that your child has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. For some parents, the news comes as a shock, while other parents may have been expecting it. However, almost all parents who receive this diagnosis for their child struggle with reimagining their child’s future with this pervasive developmental disability. You are not alone, and it is normal to feel this way. The important thing to know is that, although there is no known “cure” for autism, there is hope. Your child will be able to learn, grow and gain new skills within their potential. The important first steps are educating yourself about the diagnosis, adjusting the child’s home environment to best meet their needs, and seeking professional therapeutic services.

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Social Thinking at Camp Firefly

by Ali Katz, Camp Firefly Counselor

At Camp Firefly we have found that the Social Thinking ® approach, developed by Michelle Garcia Winner, has proven to be the most appropriate for our recreational camp therapy model, and best for meeting the needs of our campers.

Social Thinking ® has been described as a way of thinking flexibly about every unique situation and person whom we encounter.  It is not necessarily an approach for teaching basic social skills, but a way to engage a child, teen or adult in initiating and responding to interactions that instill confidence, happiness and success!

The Social Thinking ® approach has various models which help to understand how to tailor strategies for teaching flexible thinking.  One such model is called the ILAUGH ® model.  It is an acronym that describes the skills needed to be successful within social interactions.

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The Divorce Specialty Center at JCFS and The Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois Introduce Low Cost Divorce Program

by Tami Sollo, LCSW, Divorce Center Specialist, Mediator and Collaborative Divorce Coach

As the Coordinator of the Divorce Specialty Center at Jewish Child & Family Services, one of my first tasks was to research affordable ways for low-income families to divorce.  I discovered that the services are limited, and to qualify a family has to have a history of domestic violence and/or be very close to poverty.  For those families that make too much money to qualify, but not enough to pay for a divorce, there was nothing available.  Many times couples stay married, often leaving the family in very difficult circumstances.  

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Changing Language Can Change Your Life

by Tracey Lipsig Kite

Do you ever have those days when life is just overwhelming? When the meal preparation and clean-up, and the laundry, and the homework all need to get done, and your boss, and your kids, and your sister all need your time and attention? When you are sure there will never be enough of you to go around?  

When I have those days, I used to say to myself “I hate my life.” And when I thought “I hate my life,” everything would feel dark and heavy and endless. That heavy dark feeling led to my yelling at my kids, eating food that isn’t good for me and putting off doing the basic things that are needed to keep our lives going.

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Mindfulness: A Tool Fit for the 21st Century

by Tabish Shamsi, M. A., Psychological Services Therapy Extern

What is mindfulness?

All human beings in the 21st century lead highly sophisticated lives compared to non-human animals. This is the result of having a uniquely evolved mind that allows us to perform advanced maneuvers like using language to plan, reason, evaluate, communicate, reflect on the past, and anticipate the future. These remarkable abilities have enabled us to construct a highly sophisticated society comprised of tall buildings, fast-moving aircrafts and advanced medical technologies such as hair-splitting microsurgery.

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Occupational Therapy Can Help Your Child Adjust to Pre-School and Kindergarten

by Leora Goldman MS, OTR/L
Integrated Pediatric Interventions at Jewish Child & Family Services

As with all beginnings, starting school can be a very exciting, yet challenging time in a child's life—suddenly there is a different environment to adapt to, unfamiliar people to get to know and a new set of rules to follow.  A child may be introduced to different activities which require skills not frequently used at home.

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A Week in the Life of a Camp Firefly Camper

by Audra Kaplan, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist and Senior Advisor, Camp Firefly

First day of camp, Mike is quietly keeping to himself. He’s not sure of his new surroundings. Some strange lady is trying to help him put his clothes into the drawers that will hold his possessions and a few favorite objects from home for the next several days. Mike is excited about camp, but if he knew how to express it, he would say he is nervous. This is not only his first time at an overnight camp, this is his first time sleeping away from family. He did have that one sleep over at Aunt Sue’s, but she is still family.

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New Disruptive Behavior Clinic

Our list of comprehensive services for children and their families continues to expand with The Disruptive Behavior Clinic (DBC), a new program under the clinical direction of Carri Hill, Ph.D. and Pia Todras, Psy.D., members of the Psychological Services team at Jewish Child & Family Services.

The purpose of the clinic is help families with children aged 2-12 who are experiencing difficulty in managing their child's behavior, or who are concerned with emotion or behavior regulation at home, school or in public settings. Some examples of behavioral issues are noncompliance, aggression, irritability and tantrums.

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