Samuel is a little boy who dreams of becoming an astronaut. His favourite colour is yellow, and he loves to play baseball. He also happens to have cerebral palsy. Including Samuel is an award-winning documentary produced by Daniel Habib, Samuel’s father. In the film, Samuel’s family– his mother Betsy, father Daniel, and brother Isaiah– are profiled. They share their hopes for their son and brother, give a candid view of what life is like with a family member who has a disability, and describe some of the challenges and fears that accompany their everyday lives.
The film also looks beyond the Habib family to Samuel’s experience in an inclusive school. This is contrasted by what life was like growing up in the 70s for Keith Jones, a disability-rights advocate and hip-hop artist who also has cerebral palsy. In many ways, society has come a long way with inclusive education, but there remain challenges.
In addition to Samuel, the film highlights what inclusive education looks like for several other children. Alana Malfy attends an inclusive program, but it is still very difficult for her to make friends and participate fully in classes. Her teachers also express their own difficulties with presenting material at an appropriate level for all students. Inclusion is naturally what many families who have children with special needs hope for, but will it always work effectively? In some situations, such as when a child has a severe mental illness, as is the case for one young woman interviewed for the film, inclusion may even be detrimental to the health of the child.
Of the many poignant points made in the film, one that stands out was made by Dr. Douglas Biklen, the Dean of Education at Syracuse University. He asks whether inclusion exists anywhere in society, and he concludes that it does: in many families. Parents, siblings, and the individual with the disability somehow make it work effectively. How can we extend that to other realms of society?
Wonderful food for thought in this film–ask your local library to order it if they don’t have it already!
For more information: www.includingsamuel.com
Suggested for: Families who have children with special needs; teachers and other educators; therapists and others who work with children who have disabilities; public libraries