Monday, October 19, 2009

Including Graham

My husband and I had the chance to view Dan Habib's moving and honest documentary, Including Samuel. Like Samuel, our son with cerebral palsy was an adorable, affable pre-schooler who won the hearts of his teachers and peers. He liked reading about sword-wielding pirates and knights, loved Disney movies, going swimming, watching the Red Sox and being with other kids. He played t-ball with the kindergartners with help from his Dad. And like Samuel, he uses assistive technology including augmentative communication aids, positioning seating, walkers and a wheelchair.

But unlike Samuel, our son has significant global developmental delays including cognitive and social delays. We have to work at getting my son to communicate and show his stuff. He is shy and it can be hard to get him to participate in new activities and socialize with others. We did not have any preconceived plan about inclusion for him but instead tailored our approach to his personality, learning style, his interests and where he has the best chance for success. We chose to have Graham educated in a specialized setting where his team of teachers, therapists and AT specialists have 30+ collective years of experience teaching kids like my son and using technology and adapted materials to support him. And now that he's 13,  it's still a challenge to teach him to communicate, independently participate and read.

And at 13, inclusion is tougher. Rather than seek inclusion for his academics, we chose to have him participate in inclusive social activities. He attends our town's afterschool program (with an aide) a few afternoons a week at our local middle school. We need to structure activities for him to interact with his peers as at this age, kids are into their own things. Though he was reluctant at first, he recently joined a group of kids playing Rock Band on Wii and loved it!  We're working on starting a Signing Club so a group of kids can learn to sign along with my son. Tapping their love of music might be another approach. If you have any ideas for inclusion among middler schoolers, please share them!

I encourage you to check out a local viewing of Including Samuel now being broadcast on PBS stations -- and keep a tissue handy.


  1. Randi - Thank you for your blog posting. How very fortunate Graham is to have you as his mother - although if he is 13, I'm sure there are times when he does not think you are the perfect mother! I applaud you for your willingness to admit that you chose a specialized setting for Graham - I'll bet that you have felt pressure to have him fully included. It is wonderful that he is able to participate in the local afterschool program and WII is a terrific vehicle for socialization. In my experience, the attitudes of the staff can have a VERY big impact on how the kids behave. So I'd recommend a two pronged approach - educating and supporting both Graham's peers AND the staff. Good luck and I look forward to your next postings. Anne

  2. Randi, I found your blog posting to most inspiring. You have taken the opportunity to use technology to provide access to others (families, educators, kids) about how "family matters" in the efforts to give our children experiences to maximize access and minimize the negative impact of having a disability. You have through your own example demonstrated the consequential role parents play as a child's first and on-going teacher's. Your knowledge of him as a person and learner is most evidence in the decision to use the afterschool setting to provide opportunities for him to participate with his non-disabled peers. The choice supports his authentic interests and uses that as the "common ground" from which to interact with his peers. I am reminded about how useful the information that parents have about their child can be so useful to a school and to teachers. I am also reminded about how much our inclusionary work at the middle school has still to be developed. My own efforts in this regard brought me to look at the Carnegie Commission, Turning Points 2000 Educating Adolescents in the 21st Century Report and the work of Craig Kennedy and Douglas Fisher, Inclusive Middle Schools. The description of your experience points out that the creative and thoughtful efforts that bring about new possibilities around developing inclusionary practices in our schools and in our communities. What we can learn from you is that if we are to develop new possibilities for all our children we must think about doing things differently. If we continue to do what we have always done, we will continue to get what we have always got. Your example urges us to do better. Thank you for this reminder, Joe

  3. Including Samuel looks brilliant! It's a shame I missed the broadcast in my region, but I did watch the extended trailer.

    I have recently started following your blog and look forward to your posts. I am interning for Easter Seals Crossroads and work in the assistive technology department. Feel free to check our or blog sometime or share your thoughts on AT: