Out of My Mind – including special needs

Last week I wrote about inclusion. Why do I care about inclusion? Because of how much it’s helped my son, Jeremiah, who has nonverbal Autism. Another thing I love is the school he’s attending (which happens to be the only inclusive elementary school in our district, and is so close, I can SEE it from my house)!

Because MV* is an inclusive school, they make exceptional efforts to educate children in the realm of special needs. On the hallway walls hang words such as Autism and Dyslexia, with explanations and photos of famous people who live with those disABILITIES. Staff and students have the option of purchasing shirts that promote acceptance of disABILITIES, they have sayings like, “At MV, we see your disABILITY.”

out-of-my-mindLast week was the kickoff for their One Book, One School. The book they chose: Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper. The Denver Post says of Out of My Mind: “If there is one book teens and parents (and everyone else) should read this year, Out of My Mind should be it.”  At present, the book has been rated by 1,094 readers on Amazon and has a five-star rating! I’ve read some phenomenal books, and none of them have a five-star rating. And although our elementary school is promoting the book, it was written for young adults.

Here is a synopsis of the book: “Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. Always. And there’s no delete button.

She’s the smartest kid in her whole school –

but NO ONE knows it. Most people – her teacher and doctors included – don’t think she’s capable of learning, and up until recently her school days consisted of listening to the same preschool-level alphabet lessons again and again and again. If only she could speak up, if only she could tell people what she thinks and knows…but she can’t, because Melody can’t talk. She can’t walk. She can’t write. Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind – that is, until she discovers something that will allow her to speak for the first time ever. At last Melody has a voice…but not everyone around her is ready to hear it.”

At the school’s kickoff, there were various activities throughout the school which taught kids about what it’s like to live with special needs. At one station they needed to move a wheelchair from one point to another, at another they fed someone while blindfolded, they dressed someone whose arms and legs were straight out and completely stiff, they had to communicate their desires with a PECS board, and they learned about therapy dogs. We are so fortunate to be part of a school that’s focused on helping the students and staff learn about special needs.

Educating children about special needs will only make a better society.

inclusivesocietyI leave you with this quote from the author Sharon Draper, “I was fiercely adamant that nobody feel sorry for Melody. I wanted her to be accepted as a character and as a person, not as a representative for people with disabilities. Melody is a tribute to all the parents of disabled kids who struggle, to all those children who are misunderstood, to all those caregivers who help every step of the way. It’s also written for people who look away, who pretend they don’t see, or who don’t know what to say when they encounter someone who faces life with obvious differences.

Just smile and say hello!”

Does your school include special needs? What efforts do they make to teach children in the school about special needs?

*initials are used for school name to protect privacy.

Some other posts that may be of interest:
what is inclusion?
great special ed teachers = priceless
the board’s decision overrides

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