More than 60 parents of children with special needs participated in a one-hour webinar coordinated by Friendship Circle International, the Chabad-Lubavitch network that pairs teenage volunteers with children with special needs in their communities.

Entitled “Judaism’s Perspective on Special Needs: Recognizing the Asset Our Children are to Society,” the session focused on changing the prevailing dynamic whereby society at large sees the special needs population as the primary beneficiaries of various care programs.

“We notice quite often the special attention that is given,” said Rabbi Yisrael Deren, the founder and director of Chabad of Fairfield County in Stamford, Conn., and one of the call’s presenters. “Rarely do parents, neighbors [and] friends take the opportunity to recognize the gifts that the children provide.”

“Our dream is to have as many teens and adults to learn to accept people that are different,” echoed Rabbi Zalman Teldon, director of the Friendship Circle of Suffolk County in Commack, N.Y., “to see that they have lessons to teach us.”

Ruthie Gold, a mother of a four-year-old with Down syndrome, appreciated the call.

“I learned a tremendous lesson,” she said. “My husband and I look at our son to not only love him, but to also admire and learn from him.”

Founded in suburban Detroit in 1994, the Friendship Circle has since grown to include more than 80 branches at Chabad Houses around the world. …