Sunday, February 12, 2012
'Including Samuel' shows how we all benefit from including special needs kids in regular classrooms
Yesterday, I saw a screening of "Including Samuel", a documentary based primarily on the life of Samuel Habib, a kindergartener with cerebral palsy. I found it to be an informative and objective look at inclusive education and I urge you to watch it if you can. Here's the preview:
The film has lots of interesting perspectives on segregated special education and how it neither serves special needs nor typical students. Education professionals noted how much better children learned and teachers taught when they had to pay more attention to the idea that not everyone has the same capabilities. But it also had perspectives from a teacher who was frustrated to tears about how to include a special needs kid in her class and another special needs student who did far better in a more therapeutic atmosphere.
The real message of the film, I thought, was that inclusion doesn't automatically make community but automatically not including everyone undercuts a community. As one person said during the discussion after the film, graduates of special education don't get to live in a special world separated from their able-bodied peers.
And I know very intimately how segregating special needs kids can make it difficult for a typical person to see them as normal and natural. How much easier would it have been to learn of Malachi's condition if I'd spent more than an hour with anyone with CP?
I had to blink back tears many times during the film, but particularly during scenes when they interviewed Samuel's classmates. The concept that Samuel might be "special" seemed totally foreign to them. When asked about him, his classmates reported his favorite color or that he likes spaceships — not that he is in a wheelchair, not that he speaks unclearly, not that he doesn't eat by mouth. That those things were not worth mentioning was heart-warming and frankly awe-inspiring.
I was also fascinated with the scenes of home life with Samuel and his interactions with his older brother, Isaiah. The two clearly loved each other enormously and Isaiah seemed not to consider Samuel's disability a big factor in who he was as a person. When asked what it would be like if his brother didn't have CP, Isaiah thought about it for a little while then said: "He would be able to annoy me more."
Clearly this is just not a high priority for Isaiah.
I could take a few pages from his book.
(I had so much more to say about this topic that I decided to break it into three parts. Check back tomorrow and the next day for more.)