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Childrens' pools and autistic swim during the 9 days


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Av 7, 5778
Hi, there are free kiddie pools available for children in Brooklyn. These pools are shallow and are geared only for children. Can the female teachers take a class of autistic children swimming in the pool if the teachers are fully dressed? (there may be other adults around the pool taking their own children swimming)
The term “autistic” includes a wide range of cases, and accordingly, I can’t answer without knowing their situation. In general, there are 2 reasons why children don’t get haircuts, swim or eat meat during the 9 days, just like adults (Mishna Brura, Sha'ar Tzion 551, 91): Reason A: To educate them towards mitzvah-observance when they get older. This reason may apply to high-functioning autistic children over the age of 6, but if they are low-functioning children, such that they will never “grow out” of their situation, and will never be obligated in mitzvot, this reason doesn’t apply, even if they are above 6. Reason B: The societal mourning, that the hair, diets and recreation of children should not contradict the societal and family atmosphere we want during the 9 days. Here too, if these children are low-functioning or clearly discernibly not "average" children, this doesn’t apply, for everybody who sees them, understands their unique situation. In short, if they are children who are discernibly different, then it would be allowable, and you are clearly allowed to go in dressed, for you obviously aren’t there for pleasure, but to help them. But if they are higher functioning, you should consult with a local rabbi who can personally ascertain their situation. May this be the last year we need to deal with such questions!!
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