The Lighter Side of Special-Needs Life

When Adar comes in, we increase our joy. The simplest understanding is that we should already have joy, and this month, we should make an effort to have more. In that spirit, we’re going to share some of the funnier moments that we remember from our adventures with Avi and special-needs life. Because even though there’s joy every day, there are definitely some memorable moments that stand out as intentionally and unintentionally hilarious.

Of pirates and kings

We’re fortunate that Avi has a close relationship with our Rabbi and that our Shul has always been welcoming and inclusive.

As you may remember, Avi is a huge fan of children’s videos, including Sesame Street, the Wiggles, Uncle Moishy, and more. As Avi grew more verbal and began associating everyday items with various things he’d seen in videos, he noticed that the curtain on the Aron Kodesh (ark) at shul has a crown embroidered on it, and that the Torah scroll itself is adorned with a big silver crown.

One Shabbos, after the Torah was put away and Rabbi Twerski took his place at the lectern to deliver his Drasha, Avi blurted out, “Rabbi Twerski is the king!” I know the Rabbi wishes more of his congregants felt that way.

But the funniest moment was one Motzei Shabbos, after Avi had had a challenging day. At that time, the Shul occupied the downstairs of the Twerski home. We had left the car there on Friday, and we took Avi out for a walk after Havdala to get some air and retrieve the car.

When we knocked on the door to pick up the car keys, Rabbi Twerski answered it. He had taken off his Bekeshe and was wearing his shirt, tzitzis, knee-length pants, and long socks. Avi looked the Rabbi up and down and surmised that the long socks and short trousers were very pirate-like. “Ahoy there, Rabbi Twerski!” he shouted. “Rabbi Twerski’s pirate ship is sailing on the ocean waves!”

The Rabbi found the association as hilarious as we did, and we’ve been laughing about this story for years.

Of pets and pachyderms

Kids with autism can have obsessive interests or repetitive rituals that focus on a specific topic or thing. With some, it may be trains. With others, insects. With Avi, it was elephants. They were his favorite animal; he could watch videos about elephants, read books about elephants, and play with toy elephants all day long.

At one point, Avi needed ear tubes and we had to take him to the hospital. The children’s wing had plenty of toys and arts and crafts supplies to keep Avi occupied, and he was doing reasonably well. After we got settled in his room, a volunteer came by with a therapy dog, offering to visit with Avi and let him cuddle with a furry friend.

The volunteer’s mouth dropped open when Avi regarded her coolly and said, “Please can I have an elephant?”

She stammered something about only having a dog, so I feigned outrage and said, “What kind of hospital is this?! Call the supply room and have them send up an elephant!”

The volunteer was flustered, but we were thrilled that Avi had expressed himself so coherently. And we took him on an elephant ride at our earliest convenience.

Of monsters and missionaries

One morning, a pair of missionaries rang our bell, eager to talk to us about how their ideas and those of the Jewish scriptures are so similar, and how much they respect our values of family and tradition. We were trying to decline politely when Avi marched over and greeted them with one of his favorite quotes from Sesame Street, “Welcome to Monster Clubhouse!”

The visitors were taken aback, but they tried to salvage the situation and engage him in conversation. He continued the script and sang the Monster Clubhouse theme song, drowning out their sales pitch. He wasn’t interested in whatever they had to share, and neither were we.

Chodesh tov

There are probably dozens of different lessons that special-needs families – and everyone – can draw from Adar and Purim: Miracles can be disguised as everyday occurrences, situations can turn from terror to triumph in an instant, and there are many unsuspecting messengers out there who save the day by being in the right place at the right time. But the one we find most helpful right now is about keeping a sense of humor and making sure we can laugh, even through challenging times.

We wish you a great Adar and a great Purim, and we welcome your funny stories, too!
Michelle and Yaakov Steinhart live in the Monsey area and are proud parents of Avi, who has autism. They welcome comments and questions at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..