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  • Writer's pictureJodi Samuels


Several weeks ago, we were invited to an adults-only BBQ. It was Lag B’Omer when every teenager in Israel is out until 3am and there were no babysitters in the whole country. We declined the invitation because we knew it would be impossible to find a babysitter and our older kids would be out all night but our friend insisted we come and allowed an exception to the no-kid rule so for Caila  because she is so well behaved.

Caila first went to her BBQ at Bnei Akiva. Gavin picked her up at 10pm and on the drive to our friends’ asked Caila if she knew why she was the only kid invited. He was trying to make her feel good that she was the only kid well behaved enough to be allowed to come. Caila’s answered with a big grin, “I know! Because I have special needs!”

I have chronicled the challenges and joys of life with Caila over the years. This blog is about celebrating the impossible. I remember the book I read when Caila was about a week old. It was from the “What to Expect” series for expectant parents and was called “What to Expect when you have a child with Down syndrome”.

Half way through I looked at Gavin and asked, “Did I give birth to a monster?” Every potential health, cognitive and other challenge was listed and explained in relentless detail. It painted a bleak and hopeless picture.

I remember when the teacher of the two year old program that my older kids had attended left a voicemail regarding my inquiry to have Caila attend - she simply said “I don’t take those children!” Then of course we were rejected by the nursery school at the local Day school that her siblings attended as well. They were very sorry they did not have room for children with cognitive disabilities unless of course we were rich as they had a child with cognitive disabilities from a wealthy family.

I also remember the head of the Committee for Special Education from the New York City Department of Education in our district who held a PhD in Education who told me that she while she was surprised to see that Caila had normal IQ that I should prepare myself as all those children plateau by age six!

So to all of them – the naysayers and bigots, the supposed experts who eagerly explain what can never be and the intolerant, I have been dreaming about the day that I could objectively show them that this little girl with special needs is in fact just special.

She has just finished third grade in a regular school in a language that she has become fluent in since we made aliya and she has made incredible progress. She in fact told Gavin and I on the last day of school that next year she wants to be pulled out of even less classes and asked that if she works hard over the summer that we tell her teacher that she wants to stay in all lessons with the other kids. Imagine that she speaks English and Hebrew fluently switching seamlessly between languages when speaking to me and her babysitter. She reads and writes in both languages. Enjoy this video, I hope it helps you challenge the impossible and break through barriers – just like Caila has taught us!

She loves dancing, art and swimming. She is so excited to see her best friend in New York this summer after visiting her 33rd country and then she bravely decided to go to sleep away camp for two weeks in Massachusetts where she does not know a single kid going. Quite an achievement for someone this special!!

I told Caila about this blog. She said “Imma I am special and special needs!”

We love you Caila!! You make us so proud.


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