Including Samuel

As most of you know, it is important to our family that Chloe be included in life, in society, at church, and at school just as typical children — those without any disability — are included in life.  While it may sound like an easy thing, the truth is that being included in life, in society, at church, and at school is something that a lot of people do not have.  If you are living life without a disability,  the truth is that you probably just take it for granted that you and your children are included in life.  A privilege?  A right?  I believe it is a right that everyone should have — everyone with and without a disability.  I believe it’s Chloe’s right to be included.

It has been called the last civil rights issue — people with disabilities fighting for their rights to a life of value.  And I believe that it is true.  People with disabilities unfortunately often have to fight for their right to be included in life.  Our family knows this issue quite closely.  We live this issue everyday, actually.  It is an important issue, an important fight.  And it’s worth fighting for.

Paul and I recently gathered with fellow parents of children with disabilities and others who love someone with a disability and watched the documentary Including Samuel.  It was my 2nd time to see it.  It is a powerful video.  It is eye-opening and challenging.  It is thought-provoking, to be sure.  If you’ve never seen the film, I highly recommend your finding a copy and watching it.  It really sheds an honest light on inclusion in schools — its challenges, its rewards, the importance of doing it right.  Paul wrote a review of Including Samuel on his movie review blog, and he said I could share it here.  Enjoy!

Last week I attended a screening of Including Samuel with Kelly and Elliot.  It was shown at a local elementary school and moderated by our friend Jennifer, who has attended ARDs with Kelly and assisted her tirelessly with paperwork and ARD preparation.  Including Samuel addresses the challenges of including children with disabilities in mainstream classrooms, a topic that is near and dear to us as we have struggled to get Chloe placed at school.

Samuel is the son of photojournalist and filmmaker Dan Habib.  When Samuel was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, he was forced to face the issue of inclusion, a topic about which he hadn’t thought much about before.  Habib follows Samuel’s progress, as we see Samuel interacting with his peers at school and participating in the regular education classroom.  The Habibs are fortunate to live near a school whose philosophy of full inclusion accommodates students of varying levels of disability in a single classroom.

Samuel interacts with typical classmates.

Besides Samuel, we meet hip-hop artist Keith Jones, an inspiring adult with cerebral palsy who has not let his disability prevent him from a full life, including working as a music producer, marrying and having children, and functioning independently.  He says the best thing to have happened to him was to be placed in regular education classes, not segregated classes.  Other individuals featured in the film illustrate the clear benefits of full inclusion for both the disabled and their typical peers.

Keith Jones–one inspiring guy!

Habib doesn’t try to sugar coat the difficulties that arise with inclusion.  In teacher interviews, we see the range of opinions and emotions, from Samuel’s teacher, who believes that full inclusion is the best way for all  children to learn, regardless of speech or mobility problems, to the mainstream teacher who tearfully describes the challenges of reaching both the superbly gifted and the profoundly disabled at the same time.  As one teacher points out, however, the danger of creating separate classrooms for disabled children is that if there is a separate classroom, it will be used, needed or not.

Given our experience with schools which have not practiced inclusion, this quote hit way too close to home: “Inclusion is an easy thing to do poorly.  When we do it poorly, we become convinced that it cannot work.”  Even when one parent or one teacher promotes inclusion, a simplistic approach of placing a child with disabilities in a mainstream classroom without adequate support or appropriate modifications can lead to failure.  I fear that in many schools, poor execution has led to suspicion or outright rejection of full inclusion.

While Including Samuel does not provide all the answers, the film does a great service by raising lots of questions, and, most importantly, raising the possibility that full inclusion can and does work.

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Audrey on December 21, 2011 at 5:28 PM

    Put simply: BINGO!! It is the only right and ethical way to educate all children, regardless of how “difficult” it is. People need to see it done the “right” way, to be convinced that it can work. And thanks to Mr. Habib and Mr. Jones, people can see the “right” way. Wishing you and your family good luck in your continued journey.

    Reply

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