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Including Graham

Posted Oct 19 2009 12:00am
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.
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