Last night, I finished reading Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper, a book recommended to me at least 3 times in the last month.
A summary and Q&A with the author can be found here.
As I sometimes do, I want to share my feelings about this book, as it pertains to special needs.
First, I have to acknowledge that this book is fiction. And I was caught in the first chapter by a spunky 11 year old who has cerebral palsy and has never spoken a word. I love her. I know her. I talk to her every single day. And yet, she told me so much in this book that I didn't know, that I should've known.
Second, I was unaware that this book was written for "younger readers" as I was reading it on my Kindle. How awesome. What a great way for students to understand differences in their classmates!
As much as I liked this book and feel it's a great read and a great step in the process of getting kids and adults alike to accept others and their similarities and differences, there are some things I think are lacking.
The author uses words like "handicapped" and "retard." I know this is jargon and can possibly help kids relate, but I would have liked to see more discussion of how the 'r-word' is misused and hurts both a person and a family. Words matter. And a larger dialogue about these words could've made a difference.
I also would've liked more information about what happens in "H-5." Melody makes it seem as though she can do anything she wants, play around, watch movies, and have free time in H-5 with the other kids with special needs. The teacher in H-5 is never represented as a real teacher, nor is he/she ever seen as responsible for Melody's education, IEP, communication, goals, social situations, inclusion classes, aide assistance, or anything else. The H-5 teacher is simply present. Doing what?
I often find that "normal kids" wonder what happens in "that" room. It would've been nice to have more description of the teacher, the classroom, the other students, the education that can and does take place in the classrooms like H-5.
And where was the principal? The Speech Therapist? The Physical Therapist? The Occupational Therapist? The School Psychologist? Melody's private speech therapist? The county communication specialist? How could they have gone so long without getting Melody a communication device? Why would it have taken so long to get her into Inclusion classes? And why in the world would any of the teachers let Claire and Molly speak to or about Melody in the ways they did?
So, there again, while I feel like this is a great book and a great way for kids to relate to their classmates with special needs, I'm not sure the author, who has the most extensive and impressive biography I've read in a long time, really did her homework on special education. This is not an accurate portrayal of life in a public school setting under PL94-142.
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper= 4 out of 5 stars.