Yes, I have had people accuse me of being out of my mind, but this post is not about that. Sharon M. Draper wrote Out of My Mind, a novel about the life of Melody, a young girl with spastic quadriplegia (cerebral palsy involving her entire body). The difficult thing is that although this young girl has extremely limited control of her body and cannot speak, she is smart. The story tells of her life- both as an underestimated student in a self-contained class and as a child participating in an inclusion class. It incorporates the role of critical people in the community- a neighbor who not only provides unqualified love and babysitting, but teaching; teachers who push to try and bring out her spark; and a paraprofessional who patiently offers support and assistance both in and out of school. These people help Melody and her family survive and thrive.
Ms. Draper artfully captures the frustration of having things to say and not being able to say them, of not being treated fairly by her teachers and peers, and of not being able to control her body. It touches on the frustrations of Melody's parents, but does not really dwell on them as it is told from Melody's point of view.
This book provides insight into a world that is hard to imagine. It suggests hope when it is easy to see only desperation. It celebrates the unstoppable human spirit. As a teacher working with students with special needs it reinforces that we must work hard to reach and develop every child because we do not know the true potential of our students.